Moussa Sissoko very much has an “anti-hero” reputation at Tottenham. The Frenchman arrived for big money in 2016 and struggled to make an impact during his first season in North London. He still has a long way to go to fulfill his price tag, but he has enjoyed a promising start to the 2017/18 season. Should this fine start continue, he might just lose the ‘flop’ tag with which he was previously branded.
Zero to Hero
Moussa Sissoko arrived at Tottenham Hotspur as the club’s joint-record signing, joining for £30m from Newcastle United. Up to now, he has flattered to deceive for the most part, but his performances as of late have been excellent, and he is starting to show signs of living up to his price tag.
Sissoko was one of the stars of the French side who made it to the final of Euro 2016. He played six games during the tournament and started in the final defeat against Portugal. His performances, however, came as a real surprise, as they were far superior to anything he had produced at St. James’ Park.
Following his summer heroics, Sissoko made it clear he did not wish to play in the Championship with Newcastle. Everton and Tottenham Hotspur were the front runners in the race for his signature, with Spurs completing the deal on deadline day. Considering the high price and the fact that Spurs were looking very weak in midfield, he was quickly deemed a “panic buy”.
Work hard play hard
Sissoko has defied expectations so far this season. Having only started eight Premier League games last season, he has started four already this campaign, and came off the bench for the other two. In the 2016/17 season he created 25 chances all season, but already has eight to his name; not a bad return for a midfielder who is not a specialist creator.These statistics show a drastic improvement in his involvement and also his productivity, and he is being shown more faith by Mauricio Pochettino, whom he has so far rewarded.
Not long ago, it looked like he was surplus to requirements and likely to leave the club, but this season he has been a new man. It is clear that he worked hard on his game and fitness over the summer to be able to perform to his maximum ability. Last season, he admitted to making a slow start and bemoaned his lack of preparation time over the summer, due to playing in the Euros, as a reason for his struggles. This time around, his determination to be a success so far looks like to be paying off.
Sissoko stated in a recent Instagram live video that central midfield was his preferred position. He has played the majority of his games there this season and the change in position has done him the world of good. His pace and power is ideal for the centre of the park, while he lacks the technique and control to play out on the wing. Playing as a box-to-box midfielder is a far greater use of his talents than as a wide man, and he offers Tottenham a different dimension. With Moussa Dembele unable to play every game now as he edges closer to retirement, Sissoko’s resurgence will come as a welcome surprise to manage Mauricio Pochettino.
Moussa Sissoko had people on his back from day one at Tottenham, receiving plenty of criticism and even abuse. His ability to bounce back from the numerous setbacks and almost leaving in the summer is testament to his character. The 2018 World Cup in Russia is fast approaching and competition for places in the French squad is tough. Sissoko will be thankful for his reintegration back into the fold at Spurs.
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