Tanguy Ndombele is exactly the breath of fresh air that Tottenham are desperately craving for
There’s a reason why over 1 billion watch football on a consistent basis. Usually, it’s because they have some kind of emotional attachment to a certain club or player but more often than not, it’s because of the sheer amount of fun these human beings provide them with.
System, tactics, plans and everything go out the window when someone as good and as insanely talented as Ronaldinho turns up on the Tv. The incredible amount of joy the Brazilian brought to the world is still remembered till date, even when the Ballon d’Or winner has just finished a stint in jail and will be remembered long after he disappears from the world. The same will eventually happen to Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta, Wesley Sneijder, and the rest because of the sheer amount of joy they gave people.
However, not every team on the planet is lucky enough to have a player like that grace their team sheet and thus they’ve got to make the best of things. Some do it by playing blindingly incredible football, others do it by bringing pure chaos to the field, and a select few ignore the rules of fun and walk with their supreme leader, Sire Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese was so unhappy at the fact that Barcelona rejected him for Pep Guardiola, that he decided to become the complete antithesis of football.
It has worked for ol Jose because make no mistake, the former Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Tottenham, and Manchester United boss has carved some career for himself. But his time has always come to an unceremonious end where he was quite literally picked by his shirt and kicked out of the stadium, like a funny little scene from a movie. That’s despite the fact that everything, at least in recent memory, pointed to Mourinho changing his ways and finding his way back to his roots.
That was before he opted to simply go down the road travelled a lot more, ignore all the change, and burn the same old bridges again. Hopefully, his time at AS Roma helps him realise that there may never be a better chance for the wolf to change his skin and yet, we all know how that story is going to go. But, all that besides, the point because along the way, Mourinho has created disciples and given the way things at Tottenham have gone so far, Nuno Espirito Santo’s method hasn’t quite given way to greatness.
Naturally, nobody expects the Portuguese boss to figure out his feet and immediately get his side to gel a mere nine games into the season, but the tenth is about as big as they come. A North London derby against Arsenal and this game – despite the fact that the two sides are shadows of what they once were – is about as big as it gets for both. But even then, for Nuno this matters not because so far, his entire Spurs career has revolved around one man and one man only.
Harry Kane will indubitably be the focus of the world yet again, just as he was over the summer. But somehow, Spurs and Daniel Levy stood their ground, held Manchester City at bay and walked away with their superstar in hand. Now that has clearly affected Harry Kane, which has, in turn, hurt the club, who look almost lost offensively. Their plan, at least so far, has been to give the ball to either Kane or Son and hope for the best with the duo making things happening.
That was the plan under Jose Mourinho as well before Ryan Mason, for a brief stint, managed to exude joy. He made the very simple and utterly obvious decision to continuously pick Gareth Bale and that paid off as the Welshman dovetailed with both Kane and Son to create something watchable. Now, without Bale, Spurs have gone back to their roots and seem completely unwatchable, and at times stodgy and just a terrible side.
They have, however, managed to keep teams at bay with what has been a clear defensive plan in motion – something Mourinho definitely didn’t have – and that’s despite the fact that Crystal Palace put three past them. That was Nuno’s problem at Wolves as well with his plan there essentially handing the ball to Diogo Jota, Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore/Daniel Podence/Fabio Silva, and hope for the best.
Now that worked because all five men just happen to be very very good at their job and because in Raul Jimenez, Wolves had arguably one of the best center-forwards outside the ‘big six’. But without the Mexican, the entire team fell apart and that’s exactly what is happening to Tottenham. However, then walked in a change and suddenly, Tottenham have become interesting again. There’s a fourth type of team, the one that adds an agent of chaos and in Tanguy Ndombele, that’s exactly what Tottenham have.
The Frenchman is both completely majestic and utterly frustrating to watch all at the same time because he’s capable of utterly incredible moments one second, and then a stupid pass the other before disappearing for the rest of the game. A very Hatem Ben Arfa move from the former Olympique Lyon man but that only simply adds to the spectacle because you have absolutely no clue when Ndombele will do something marvellous and make it all worthwhile.
It’s what makes him the perfect Tottenham player because exactly like the club, Ndombele is capable of doing things that could set the world on fire but goes all the way to the top, before falling flat on his face. Don’t get it wrong, that doesn’t make him any less fun to watch but the fact that he’s capable of moments like the latter has seen him often dropped or just completely removed from the team, which has more often than not hurt Tottenham
And yet, even then there’s no denying that the Frenchman has had a tough time since his move to England and it's about as tough as things can get. His first manager was sacked six months into his time at Spurs, his second verbally destroyed him in the press in his first season before Ndombele rose like a phoenix in the second. His third manager, and interim boss, dumped him out of the team and now his fourth manager had, until recently, ostracized him.
Then things changed because suddenly, Spurs realised they had a player of Ndombele’s caliber in the team and the Frenchman has showcased exactly what he can offer. The last three games have seen Tottenham play some of the best football this season with that first half against Chelsea arguably their best in a long long time. However, even then, Spurs looked lost in the final third with chances at a premium and that was with Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso on the field which says something when this is their best possible team.
But with time and effort, chances will come because right now, Spurs are playing arguably their best team but without their best players. Harry Kane is clearly off the pace, Son is recovering from injuries while both Ndombele and Lo Celso lack match-fitness and the rest need time to be blend into the squad. Even then, one thing is completely clear, a Tottenham side without Ndombele simply doesn’t work and not just because they play unwatchable football.
But also, because without the Frenchman, Spurs look lethargic and ponderous with a hint of terrible and a massive dollop of predictable. He adds the one thing they need, and that’s a driving force through midfield and someone capable of creating that moment of chaos inside the opposition’s final third. The only problem is the fact that Ndombele also offers that chance of creating that chaos inside his own final third.
It’s like playing with fire, definitely fun and cool to do but also comes with the obvious burning the flesh of yourselves risk although like most risky things, there are ways to eliminate the risk. However, in this case, Spurs can’t simply do away with Ndombele and play Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as the attacking midfielder. Because it simply doesn’t work. And yet, there’s a balance there that can be struck and that also happens to be Nuno Espirito Santo’s biggest task at Spurs.
Not what he’ll do with Harry “one foot out the door” Kane but more what he’ll do with Ndombele. The reward is so very very clear and so is the risk but get the balance right, and Tottenham becomes a side to be feared again and more importantly, a team well worth spending two-plus hours of your day watching. Get it wrong and nothing changes in North London beyond the fact that the 'want ads' will feature a new managerial position at 782 High Rd, London N17 0BX.