Is Mousa Dembele the best box to box midfielder in Europe?

Is Mousa Dembele the best box to box midfielder in Europe?
Aug 16, 2016

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After last years chaotic season, with relegation candidates Leicester City achieving Premier League glory and Tottenham Hotspur somehow finishing third in a two horse race, many players certainly got unrecognized due to the historic displays surrounding the top flight of English football, with one of them being Tottenham Hotspur’s Mousa Dembele.

The Belgian international arguably had his most successful season in Lilywhite last year, as he struggled to express his true talent and technical ability in previous years with the headlines surrounding Croatian maestro Luka Modric, and obviously Gareth Bale after his breakthrough year at the club.

A report broke out from ESPNFC stating they think Moussa Dembele is the best box to box midfielder in Europe, prior to last seasons heroic performances with Spurs, very controversial, right? As there’s certainly evidence to back up this bold statement by the source. Throughout this article I will compare Dembele to both new Manchester arrivals in Ilkay Gundogan who joined the blue side of Manchester, and the most expensive footballer in history Paul Pogba, who inevitably reunited with the Red Devils after four years away from the club for a record breaking fee of £89m.

Paul Pogba

Fours years ago the Frenchman left the Theater Of Dreams as he felt out of favour at the club. To make things worst, he also found it extremely difficult to gain Ferguson’s trust in him, so he saw his future elsewhere. As Italian giants Juventus snatched up the young prospect for 800k, this is probably the only time in Ferguson’s managerial career where he can look back and realized he made a huge mistake.

Many knew the heaps of talent Pogba possessed but there was always question marks over his attitude towards the beautiful game. Where at Juventus he felt at home, gradually emerged into the first team and capitalized on the opportunity to display his true potential to millions of fans across the globe. After many stellar man of the match performances and catching the eye of many, he led an experienced Juventus side to the Champions League final where they fell just short to Barcelona, which was still a huge achievement for the club.

The midfielder was exceeding his potential at this point and was flirting with the elite clubs across Europe, where a big money move away from Juve looked imminent. This was definitely the case as he looked to redeem his United career and prove the critics wrong as Mourinho lured him back to Old Trafford for a record breaking £89m fee. Many rival fans saying he’s not worthy of being the most expensive player in football history, whereas I think if you’re financially capable and will drastically improve your squad why not? People may call him a ‘fraud’ but I guarantee if a player of Pogba’s caliber was joining their team they would be ecstatic to say the least!

What he brings to United

Pogba is known for his flair and trickery, this is what differentiates himself from any other talent in the world. Some things he does on the pitch are mesmerizing where this just shows how much confidence and swagger he has to his game. He will add goals to United as he bagged 8 goals for Juventus and registering himself 12 assists last season, the most in the Serie A.

His play style will add a whole new dimension to United’s game, the energy he will bring to the midfield which will also compliment fellow Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin extremely well. Pogba is considered a powerhouse and engine by many, with his physique you can’t deny he will fit the Premier League perfectly and will be a revelation to the best league in world football. In addition, Schneiderlin’s ‘anchor’ role can provide protection for the defense meaning Pogba can be utilized correctly and free roam.

With his assist record followed by Anthony Martial and former Dortmund play maker Henrikh Mkhitaryan all supplying the ammo to ‘God Of Manchester’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho has certainly addressed the lack of quality in attack from last seasons ‘boring’ play style, implemented by Louis Van Gaal’s so called ‘philosophy’.

Pogba’s attacking threat is what makes him so special, he averages 4 shots a game which shows he gets in key areas of the field, and will create chances for United when he joins. With 37% shot accuracy he can definitely improve on this, but due to his audacious attempts at goal from range, it isn’t exactly bad. He produces more shots out of the three midfielders with him being an attack minded player. The Frenchman’s dribbling ability doesn’t go unnoticed, achieving 3 take-ons per game isn’t to shabby, with his powerful presence he can drift past players with ease and in the Premier League he will show this.

Ilkay Gundogan

The German midfielder signed a four year contract in 2011 when he first signed for a promising Dortmund side at a fee of around £3m, which looks to be quite a bargain following his staggering £25m move to Manchester City. They acquired his signature to have a ball playing centre midfielder, with Guardiola managing in the Bundesliga at Bayern, he obviously knew his capabilities better then any other manager in the Prem.

Gundogan was seen to be one of the ‘last men standing’ when hit man Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze left the club for fierce rivals Bayern Munich, who was their only realistic source of competition, this is why the Bundesliga has developed its image as a non competitive league because one club is superior to them all and that’s Bayern Munich.

The one thing which is holding back Ilkay Gundogan from becoming a world class performer is that he’s very injury prone, injuries have restricted him to become an elusive asset in the German national team, as Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira will need someone special to replace them for the up-coming World Cup. Partnering up with a managing great like Pep Guardiola will only develop him into a more complete, productive player as I believe this was a huge factor of him leaving Dortmund as he saw special things regarding this extremely talented City side.

What will he bring to City?

Under Pep Guardiola, City will obviously play a pass orientated game, with hardly anybody better in the business then this man. His passing is exquisite and will orchestrate the play for Manchester City when back from injury. He has the ability to get the ball from midfield to attack in quick succession then let the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero cause chaos upon the opposition, which was the problem under Pellergrini as they had nobody capable of feeding the ball to the attackers in the rate of which Ilkay can deliver.

Him and John Stones will be revolutionary for City, with many critics judging Stones from his price tag but he has the potential to shine through Guardiola’s system. The Spaniard is a tactical genius and is one of the most successful managers of the modern generation. Many supporters would rightly judge him for taking the easy route for signing with such dominant teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich but without a doubt this will be the toughest task of his whole managerial career.

He can dictate the play like many high caliber midfielders, which is vital if the game is getting to open and the opposition look likely to score, especially against teams like Leicester which will capitalize on every mistake with the likes of Jamie Vardy and Mahrez who rarely miss in front of goal.

Gundogan’s passing ability is what makes him exceptional, obviously being the best passer out of the three. Producing almost double the amount of passes then Dembele with 88 per game complimented by a completion rate of 88%, he will control the game to his liking. with City’s unorthodox play style against Sunderland with Fernandinho slotting in as the middle centre back when in possession, I’m positive he will accommodate this role better then anyone else in the squad. Full backs Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna will act as centre midfielders to overpower the opposition in the middle and will be very secure at the back from the counter attack.

Mousa Dembele

The Belgian international transfered to Tottenham in late August, 2012. With Spurs reluctantly triggering the hefty £15m Fulham were demanding, the North Londoners finally got hold of their man. After two very promising years at Craven Cottage he was targeted by many teams across Europe, with Tottenham being the first team to meet Fulham’s asking price. Scoring emphatically on his debut to grab Tottenham the win against Norwich he quickly became a favorite among the fans. He was bought to replace Luka Modric who joined Real Madrid while winning the Spanish Supercup against fierce rivals Barcelona just after 36 hours since his transfer was finalized and announced.

His conversion from attacking midfielder to box to box revived his career at White Hart Lane, manager Tim Sherwood not content with a regular starting eleven four months into his job, after saying “I know this squad more then anybody else.” when first appointed as the new Spurs manager, which is very ironic. Mousa was experimented in many different roles within the team after cementing his place in centre midfield.  Now sitting deep, he has the freedom to spray the bay around and control the game. While allowing to drive at the the oppositions midfield which he’s one of the best in the world at.

What he brings to Spurs

You could be right saying Dembele is our most crucial player in the whole squad, as Harry Kane and Dele Alli’s contribution was clear as they were justifiably acknowledged in the PFA’s nominations. Our record without the midfielder is borderline abysmal, as we lost just once in 27 league games with him, and lost five times in 11 without the engine of our midfield. This connotes how vital he is to our team and also Pochettino’s philosophy he is gradually implementing in the club. He’s created a winning mentality back at White Hart Lane, which we’ve been missing since the departure of Harry Redknapp with the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Rafael Van Der Vaart and a flurry of more talented individuals who complimented each other in their own ways. This young Spurs side isn’t fazed by any opposition put in front of them, and that is essential for a title winning side.

What makes him so effective in this Spurs midfield is that he starts very deep, but is allowed to free roam by the company of Eric Dier’s protection to the back four. His ability to drive at the opposition and turn them on a sixpence really makes some professionals look quite ridiculous. Teams would have to resort to bringing three players over to tackle him and will still manage to weave his way out of trouble, this is what creates so much space and were Tottenham started their attacks due to the brilliance of Mousa Dembele, from these positive drives this gives the likes of Eriksen and Alli space to operate and create chances for Harry Kane, who don’t need many opportunities to stick them in the back of the net. Watch this clip of Jamie Carragher as he had high praise for the Belgian regarding the game at Anfield when he single handedly dismantled Liverpool’s midfield.

Him being one of the best dribblers in world football statistically, with more successful take on’s then Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial last season he certainly get’s unnoticed. Many players struggled to get over 60 dribbles whereas he Belgian performed 77. Furthermore, only 7 unsuccessful ones compared to Hazard, Martial and Sanchez who got around 80, he certainly holds his own in the middle of the park. Last season, Mousa Dembele boasted an unbelievably consistent dribble success rate of 92%, but Brazilian star Willian could only manage 68%. He contributed to 29 games last year which is 9th most in the Tottenham squad, but being 1st in tackles, tackles won, duels won and passing accuracy, I’m now fully aware why were very weak without is presence.

I got these stats from Squawka player comparison, I would also like to add I’m not the type to judge a player by statistics, as they can be very misleading and irrelevant in some departments.


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