When Tottenham Hotspur sold Luka Modric to Real Madrid over the summer, a replacement for the Croatian was a necessity. The diminutive schemer provided the creative spark from deep and despite being linked with a move for Joao Moutinho, Mousa Dembele was signed from Fulham and instantaneously made an immediate impact on the Spurs faithful, netting 23 minutes into his debut during the 1-1 draw with Norwich City back in September.
The Belgium international has proven to be an astute acquisition for Andre Villas-Boas’ side, with Dembele forming a dynamic and hard working partnership with Sandro in the middle of the park. Without the 25-year-old, the north London outfit lacked the attacking swagger that he brought to the field and it was no coincidence that their prolonged poor run of form during much of October and November occurred when he was sidelined with a hip problem.
His work in the middle of the park pushed the team forward, giving Spurs the creative verve that made the team click. During the 0-0 draw with Queen’s Park Rangers, however, Dembele saw his impact stifled, somewhat.
The standard of his play dropped to an extent, with the Belgian completing just 91% of his attempted passes, a drop from the wins over Aston Villa, Sunderland and Reading, where the midfielder mustered a completion percentage of 96%, 97% and 94%, respectively.
Much of this was down to the utilisation of Stephane MBia in the QPR midfield, with the powerful Cameroonian charged with denting the influence of Dembele in the middle of the park. When comparing the heat maps of the duo it’s clear to see both operated in a similar position throughout the 90 minutes.
R’s manager Harry Redknapp had evidently identified the threat of Dembele and set the former Marseille ace upon the Spurs man in order to hinder his influence. It’s no surprise that of the 68 completed passes made by the Belgian, only one was key in the 20th minute for Gareth Bale’s effort from distance, which was comfortably smothered by Julio Cesar.
In comparison to the previous encounters leading up to the London derby, Dembele‘s key pass ratio had dropped from two apiece against Villa and Sunderland, before an impressive return of six during his 84 attempted passes in the 3-1 win over Reading on New Year’s day.
Furthermore, against the R’s, his passing grid shows that a number of Dembele‘s range of balls to temmates were either across the midfield or to the marauding full-backs as Spurs failed to really break down QPR.
Nevertheless, his exploits ensured that he mustered an impressive performance score of 28, having successfully won four of his five attempted tackles, one of which was against MBia. However, of his two aerial duels, one was lost, the Cameroon international the victor on this occasion.
What saw his score drop was the fact that he committed three fouls during the encounter, picking up a booking in the process. It may not have been his finest performance in a Spurs shirt to date, but Dembele still put in a decent enough display during the lunchtime kick off, regardless of what fans were proclaiming on Twitter.
In fact, MBia‘s performance was detrimentally worse than Dembele‘s during the stalemate. The 26-year-old committed the same amount of fouls as his Belgian counterpart, picking up a booking in the process, but his completed pass percentage was significantly lower than the Spurs ace, finding a teammate with just 62% of his 45 attempted balls. Winning six of his seven tackles may’ve stood him in good stead, but the poor passing figures saw his performance score sink to a -8.
Nevertheless, in being tasked with hindering the threat of Dembele, M’Bia was ultimately successful, limiting his influence and ensuring the 25-year-old was restrained largely to passes across the midfield, rather than through to the attacking quartet of Emmanuel Adebayor, Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Bale.