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So Tottenham have signed Moussa Sissoko. For 30m. Which is a fleecing. Let’s be honest. Even in “this market”, that kind of money for a player who has shown flashes of class but never consistently impressed is ridiculous, and especially for one who may not be in the starting XI.
Even Newcastle fans are unclear on what Sissoko’s best position is. At Toulouse he was a central midfielder, and that’s where he played when he first joined the Toon. Over time however, he was moved into the band of three behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1, sometimes as the #10 but often on the right. Was that because he was a more effective attacking outlet in those positions, or because he wasn’t switched-on enough defensively to play in a central midfield pair?
It is just as unclear where he fits into Spurs’ line up. Two of Dier, Wanyama or Dembele will usually make up the central midfield and the first choice three of Alli, Eriksen and Lamela look pretty settled, even if the addition of Vincent Janssen does see Kane dropping into the #10 position here and there.
Meanwhile, the club have kept Son who – if he’s going to get game time will probably get it in the wide positions – and bought Nkoudou, about whom we can say the same thing. There’s also Josh Onomah, whom Pochettino is said to be keen to give minutes.
Where does that leave Sissoko? Spurs fans have often complained over the past couple of seasons that Eriksen has had no real competition for his position, and that’s true. But is Sissoko that? Is he a different kind of #10 – more of a marauder, to run behind the defence rather than provide creativity in front of it? If so, couldn’t Alli achieve the same effect (he did so many times last season) in that position, which would in turn provide an opportunity for one of Son, Nkoudou or Onomah to play out wide?
Perhaps the plan is to use Sissoko as a different kind of wide-forward to Lamela – a pacey and dynamic double threat down the right, as he appeared during Euro 2016. Or perhaps even more intriguingly, Pochettino plans to use him an alternative to Dembele and develop Sissoko into the box-to-box central midfielder he always should have been, leaving Wanyama and Dier to fight it out for the more defensive role. The team’s struggle to keep possession in central areas without Dembele in the first three games of the league might have pushed the manager to find an alternative.
When it comes to Moussa Sissoko there are almost too many options and as the likes of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain have discovered, that is rarely a good thing. What’s easier to trust is that Pochettino has a plan, and given the way he turned around or re-shaped the careers of players like Rose, Dembele, Dier and Lamela, one wouldn’t rule out him doing the same with someone who seems to have all the tools, but has lacked either the application or the coaching required to put it all together.
Watch this space. It will be fascinating.