Date: 27th November 2018 at 8:52am
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When Tottenham signed Sissoko there were very conflicting opinions about the transfer among supporters. There were conflicting opinions between Newcastle supporters about him leaving, and there were conflicting opinions between Tottenham supporters about him arriving.

Sissoko arrived at Tottenham for the start of the 16-17 season. He came with a fairly useful reputation having previously played for his national team at all levels. His attributes were his strength, speed, and ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder in both a holding and attacking capacity. He has never been a prolific goal scorer.

Moussa Sissoko is now in his third season at Tottenham and it’s fair to say that things have not gone well for him. By the start of the current season the conflicting opinions among Tottenham supporters in terms of Sissoko’s usefulness to the playing squad was no longer ‘conflicting’. The majority of supporters felt that he had nothing to offer the club.

Sissoko’s performances during his first two seasons were generally ‘poor’ at best, and ‘woeful’ at worst. There were few signs of the football skills that elevated him to international level. His ball control was erratic, as was his passing. His decision making was also poor. It was common for supporters to comment that, when he was on the park, Spurs were playing with ten men. There was little sign of a dynamic ‘box-to-box’ midfielder and little sign that he was particularly interested in exerting himself in the manner desired by his manager. Quite simply, the consensus was …. he had to go!

But he stayed. Not only that, but he was given greater time on the park. Pochettino was criticised for playing him. What was he thinking? But as this season has progressed so has Sissoko’s game. He was starting to play well, to contribute in a positive way. He was catching the eye. His energy level increased, as did his work-rate. He was useful! After thirteen games (a significant amount on which to base a players performance) there are no longer groans from supporters when his name is announced on the team-sheet.

Perhaps he never felt part of the Tottenham set-up. Perhaps he felt unloved and unwanted …. especially if he’d read any comments on VS, some of them coming from me. But suddenly there seemed to be a spark to his game. The spark has become brighter as the games have come along. This season, Sissoko has not looked out of place in the Spurs team.

During the 3-1 win over Chelsea, Sissoko displayed all of his strengths and showed exactly what he is capable of. And the fact is, he was absolutely brilliant and a major factor in the team’s spectacular performance. Now we are all left with the question mark in terms of Moussa’s future worth as a Tottenham player. Has the ‘conflict’ of opinions returned? Has he earned more trust from supporters and does he deserve more time to demonstrate he can perform consistently at the required level?

The answer to this will be indicated by VS comments appearing on this thread. I believe he should stay.

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38 Replies to “Tottenham: The Demise, Rise, And Surprise Of Sissoko!”

  • I think you are only part right with that jod. Winks, Dier, Dembele and Sissoko have all played both roles. Dembele especially, had been playing the deeper role more often this season. Wanyama even played in the more forward role just recently, if I recall… And, in a few matches I have seen both defensive midfielders sharing the work, as both have interchanged positions as the more defensive and the more attacking player… And so its maybe not always as clear cut as you have defined it to be.

    We have also seen Pochettino make subtle changes this season with the more so called diamond formation showing up in the midfield with both Eriksen and Dele often playing much deeper than before and, also interchanging with one another and working in tandem. And Sissoko himself has been everywhere at times. Deeply defensive one minute and thrusting through into the opposition box, the next . Through the middle and out wide. He does this I presume simply because he can. He has the stamina and speed and strength to make it happen. Whereas Dembele doesn’t really have this ability and is hardly ever as direct…

    I think the different roles are often played out differently depending on the individual players and their specific skill sets. As well as according to whatever particular tactics are employed by Poch against different opposing set-ups. And not strictly dictated by Poch as in relation to thier starting positions on the written team sheet.

    This has been Pochettino’s way. He expects players to be flexible in their roles and to interchange. And they have been trained and developed to be so…

    The team was very firm in keeping its overall shape v Chelsea for instance. Even though Sissoko was everywhere and Dele had a man-marking role. DIer was very solid defensively, whilst often dropping deeper into central defence and in behind Moussa but, was still often to be seen further upfield, supporting our attack.

    I think many of our players are more adaptable than sometimes given credit for. And I think that through some subtle tactical changes from MP this season (from one match to the next), there has been a certain amount of rethinking being implemented out on the pitch. Which is slowly but surely falling into place. And in spite of all of the disruptions through the many injuries, etc…

    All in my opinion of course but I do think Pochettino has definitely been working things more differently this season. And the defensive midfield set up has been part of this. Our formation and the players roles have been tweaked and expanded upon, I believe.

  • Jod, “Of course for those fans who need someone to hate its going to be a problem not being able to throw abuse at Sissoko anymore, they’ll need a replacement. So expect Ben Davies to come in for plenty of unjustified criticism over the next few months.”

    Tell you what, if that leads to a Sissoko type of turnaround, bring it on!!

    Hopefully Rose will start tonight and prove a point that we need more from Davies.

  • Ben has also been getting it in the neck, jod. I’m not sure why.

    Again, I’m often not sure what our expectations are as supporters. It seems that we expect all of our players to be the very best in their position, seemingly without realising this will never be the case… Or noticing that they do contribute well enough for the team.

    Rose is apparently much better because he is faster. Well, that may be so. But he aint better than anyone if he is injured and unavailable… Obviously… People have also cited Rose as being one of the best in his position, if not the best in the PL… So, who should we expect to be our alternative? A player that is better or one that is more than reliable enough. I believe Ben has proved his worth to our squad and quietly gone about his business in a solid and professional fashion. Not being the best, is not being bad

    Apparently to some, our right sided full/wing backs are not quite good enough either… Good enough for what, I ask? Barcelona?

  • HT “All in my opinion of course but I do think Pochettino has definitely been working things more differently this season. And the defensive midfield set up has been part of this. Our formation and the players roles have been tweaked and expanded upon, I believe.”

    Absolutely spot on IMO. Considering the tools at his disposal (injuries, internationals, form, etc), his rotation and adapting has performed nothing short of a miracle. All this time, he’s managed to raise the standard of others (Sissoko, Foyth) and managed the re-introduction of Dele and Eriksen from injuries with little impact on results.

    My only disappointment this season has been our CL showing, but it may be put right tonight!

  • Hi CS, hope you are well…

    The only Spurs match I haven’t seen this season is the away match with Inter. I read and heard that we played well. Of course it didn’t work out well in the end. So here’s hoping for the 3 points tonight. And I don’t really care how we get them… Even so, a performance such as the one v Chelsea will be more than welcome.

  • HT …. To carry on with one of your points, I think one thing other teams find difficult when they play us is the movement and inter-changing of our players. They seem to have far more freedom than most players enjoy. It only works because they have all been together long enough to understand Poch’s directions and they know where they should be in regard to what’s happening on the park. It seems to me that Poch allows this freedom because he trusts their decision making and awareness. The understanding that the players have between each other is crucial for them to enjoy such freedom. If someone leaves a hole behind them, someone else fills it. I guess that’s one advantage of a very settled squad, where the players believe in each other.

  • The thing about Sissoko, who now has his own chant, which I was happily singing on Saturday evening, is that he is a big lump of a unit when you get close up and personal you can see how he has the physique of a Lukaku but he is very fast and when he gets his head down he can shift. the aspect of his game I am enjoying the most though his his defensive qualities. I have to say he is a one man road block when he puts his mind to it I just wish he could finish! Box to Box he’s great but he just doesn’t have the confidence in front of goal but when you watch him in the warm up his accuracy isn’t anywhere as good as Dier for example who is lethal at taking shots at the small practice net! Either that or Vorm is crap at stopping them!!!!

  • HT, its because people see things differently, I much prefer Rose to Davies, and Im not even that keen on Rose , but he needs to get fit asap!!

  • Of course people see things differently Ossie. But that wasn’t my point. I was wondering why many fans always have such inflated expectations. Why they so often seem to think it’s so easy to always get better players than the ones we already have. Especially when they have been part of a squad that has shown a vast improvement to past squads… And I was referring not to any criticism or favouritism as such but to Davies being a scapegoat as with Sissoko. I was responding to jod…

    I am not saying that there isn’t better players than Davies or even Rose but I am saying that they can’t all just turn up and play for Spurs…I mean we have two very good fullbacks for each side. I’m not sure that it would be so easy to improve on this… And, if we win with Davies in the team the end result is the same as if we win with Rose in the team… And we win so much more than we lose, with either in the team…

    One of the criticisms though that Davies does get, is that he doesn’t cross as well as Danny and perhaps get the assists that Rose does. But this is not actually so. They each have very similar results in this during Pochettino’s time with Spurs. Both defensively and in attack they have different attributes and are each are better at some things than the other is. This is to be expected.

    The wing-back role is a very tough position to play in and for any club to fill and, I don’t think there are that many around for us to realistically choose from that could step in and be as instantly consistent as our guys are. As well as be more than willing to compete for the same spot… But this is also just my opinion…….

    Fact is that Danny (although many supporters favourite) has been less and less involved in the past 3 seasons. 3 seasons in which we have not been any worse off as a team than when he was a more regular player than Ben now is.

    If Poch can find better, then that may all change. Meanwhile, we’ll just have to do… But we do, do just fine…

  • I don’t see it that way, I think some players take to you, others don’t, Ben Davies is a good solid professional, but there’s is better out. And whether the club can afford them or not, isn’t gotta stop a fan from wanting a better player. Keeping everyone happy is always impossible.

  • But you say you are against scapegoating Ossie. And this is what I’m referring to and not fair criticism or preference. Scapegoating a player because one feels that he should be better than he is, doesn’t do it for me…

    I didn’t actually mention players that the club cannot afford… Which, lets face it anyway, as you mentioned it, it’s more than likely that we would have to spend a lot more than we spent on the ones we have, to replace our wing-backs with significantly better ones. If they can indeed be found… Because it is much more likely that those superior players will be gobbled up by much wealthier clubs than Spurs.

    And I will insist that top notch, PL top 4 ready wing-backs are quite rare finds. Most top established wing-backs did not start out that way. It is a more modern position that has developed a lot in recent times and most have been either converted and developed from a pure full back role or from being an attacking midfielder… There is not this long supply line of them waiting to be grabbed off the conveyor belt… Both Rose and Davies needed to be developed into these roles themselves.

    We will find Rose’s and Ben’s replacements soon enough but they will most probably need time and development as we will be lucky to find them young, ready made and affordable… And even if we do find them, we’ll have our work cut out in keeping them for as long as Rose and Davies…

    The grass can be greener on the other side but that other side will probably be Barca Real, United or City.

    I hope of course that Poch has a hidden gem up his sleeve and proves me totally wrong… He’s magic you know.

  • HT your post on what is different in our shape / formation is spot on. Poch has definitely made some adjustments to ST / AMF /MF / DF and rotation of players. It has resulted in us grinding out wins when we would have lost or drawn, and the Chelsea game was the first time we had all players on the same “page”

    I thought sonny’s goal against chaves was just as good as Ricky Villa’s goal in a cup final years ago at Wembley and if its not MOD Goal of the Season it will take one hell of a goal to beat it…Nice one sonny, nice one son…..

  • I can’t recall Dembele playing the Dier role in midfield. Winks certainly has and been praised by Poch for playing so well out of position. That’s the point though, Poch hasn’t played him there because he wants to but because he ‘s had to. As long as Wanyama is seemingly permanently injured we are over reliant on Dier and he’s not going to play every game. After a back up centre forward the next priority for me is a back up for Dier (or Wanyama’s injury problems to miraculously disappear). The tweaks further forward don’t really affect that midfield pivot. There about how the attacking midfield players and Kane line up. Not sure the have done Ali a lot of favours, both with Spurs and England he seems to be further from the opposition’s box and hence getting fewer goals.

  • I have to disagree jod. Wherever on the pitch that tactical tweaks and changes are made, it will obviously effect the whole shape of the team and how certain players are used within it. If we have Attacking midfielders dropping more deeper, then this certainly has an impact on how our apparent midfield pivot operates.

    Whatever the reason for the likes of Winks playing both roles in the pivot, my point remains the same in spite of it sometimes being out of necessity through players unavailability.

    Pochettino hasn’t talked about Winks playing out of position as such, when used as the more holding player or not. In fact he has said pretty much the opposite as far as I can recall. He has called him an all round midfield player that is able to play both as a holding midfielder and as a box to boxer… Winks himself described his job as being a bit of everything. To be involved in everything. Breaking up play and setting up attacks. And getting forward when he can. Just as both he and Sissoko showed last night.

    Last night highlighted very well I think, my point about the interchanging of the two roles. Whereby we saw Sissoko and Winks both effective as defensive players and in joining in with our attack.

    But I did say that this will depend on a players individual skill sets as to how Poch will utilise them. And I can’t see Wanyama or Dembele being as effective in attack as say Sissoko has been. And Wanyama is possibly the least adaptable, although he will often find himself much further forward in some games than others…

    Anyway, I will still insist that our formations and tactics are far more changeable and flexible than are often given credit for. And Pochettino has definitely given more freedom to our players in the so called pivot, than in previous seasons. And it’s the dropping deeper of Christian and Dele or Lamela and Lucas and even Harry, that has made this possible. All as far as I can see, anyway.

    But all this is made easier with the likes of Sissoko and Winks, given their all round capabilities.This is not by chance, it is by design. Pochettino is not making it up as he goes along… It’s been almost 5 years in the making…

  • HT – “Of course people see things differently Ossie. But that wasn’t my point. I was wondering why many fans always have such inflated expectations. Why they so often seem to think it’s so easy to always get better players than the ones we already have. Especially when they have been part of a squad that has shown a vast improvement to past squads…”

    I think that just comes with the territory, wanting continuous improvement. The club keeps setting its sights higher and higher, which is normal. If a player is already showing his limits in a squad challenging for top 4, and then the club sets its sights even higher (ie challenging for the title), you sometimes fail to see how said player is going to raise his game if he’s already not fully comfortable at the current level.

    I also think that fans will also look at title winning squads, and see how those squads are constructed. You then benchmark against those squads and identify areas of improvement This is perhaps a flawed approach because there isn’t just one way/one style/one brand of football to win a title, but I think it’s still going to happen.

    As a general remark (not just aimed at HT’s posts, but in response to a few in the conversation), I think it’s also important to differentiate “hate” with simply upholding players to a certain standard which can reasonably be expected from a PL/CL footballer. I don’t like personal abuse, but there is nothing wrong with remarking that a certain player had a bad game (or a bad string of games) at a certain moment in time. That’s not hate, that’s just calling it like it is. If a footballer is consistently poor over a long period of time, pointing it out isn’t hate. Take Soldado for example. It just was not going to happen for him at Spurs. Is wishing for the club to move on “hating” Soldado, or just a fair evaluation of underwhelming results? It’s a very important nuance for me.

  • BelgianSpur – Sorry but hate isn’t the wrong word. If it was about standards then players would get criticism when they had a bad game and praise when they had a good one across the squad. That isn’t what happens with some of our fans and hasn’t been the all the years I’ve been going to matches. Rather one player is becomes a target and then whatever goes wrong its his fault. Its was that way when I was watching Pratt and Perryman, its been that way ever since.

  • jod – fair enough, there will always be less discerning fans.

    I’m not saying that the behaviour doesn’t exist. I’m just saying that some fans want to criticise a player’s performance fairly, without hate.

    I also agree that if you’re going to criticise, you also have to give credit when it’s due. Some fans never do and you rightly condemn that.

    But at the same time, lumping everyone together is equally unfair. I personally believe Davies is an inferior choice to Rose, like Ossie. I can point to specific mistakes in specific games to back up my personal opinion, and I accept that other fans may see things differently. That doesn’t mean that I dislike Ben Davies as a person or want to see him get abused. But I also don’t think that rightfully criticising his poor games should not be frowned upon. There’s a time and a manner, but I still believe in freedom of speech ;-).

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