Tottenham aren’t in the best of situations under Jose Mourinho right now. Be it due to how the club handled the pandemic or how things were on the pitch, it isn’t a promising sign. On the pitch, the club was unorganised in their approach under Mourinho, leading to a knockout in the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup.
To sort out those issues, it has become clear that Mourinho is looking for a defensive midfielder in the summer. To make sure that the foundation of Jose’s team is established in the best possible way, Spurs need a defensive midfielder to make his system work. His teams have been known to always have dominating ball-winners in that position and Spurs don’t have that.
Names like Denis Zakaria and Boubakary Soumare have been linked. But as much as they are talents that might go onto play for big clubs, Spurs should take a more under-valued route and make a move to sign Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
The Dane drew links with a move to Spurs and these reports have said that Tottenham will look to make a move in the summer. A transfer will make sense for both parties, considering what Spurs want.
What Mourinho wants is someone who is a prolific ball-winner like Nemanja Matic was at Chelsea or Man United and how Claude Makelele was at Stamford Bridge. He demands these players to be decent on the ball and allow the forward players freedom to attack on the counter.
This allows the centre-backs more defensive protection. The Spurs backline does need protection, considering how they’ve kept the least number of cleansheets in the whole campaign.
What Hojbjerg brings to the table is that security at the back. The former Bayern Munich man has made the highest number of recoveries per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season (per Soccerment). His tally stands at 10.52 as he has been playing as the deepest midfielder in a 4-4-2 shape in a high-pressing system at Southampton.
He is tasked with breaking up play and cycling the ball to the flair players, with James Ward-Prowse dictating the tempo with his ability on the ball.
Hojbjerg ability to play out from the back is proved by how he plays 11.8 passes through the press this season. It shows how reliable he is a ball-player too. Not just that, but the Dane plays 4.49 progressive passes per 90 minutes and plays 4.56 of them into the final-third. This could be down to the demands of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s system but Hojbjerg meets these demands of keeping ticking play very well indeed.
But what is the most demanding need for Spurs is ball-winning ability. Hojbjerg is top of that list in many regards and brings exactly what the Lilywhites need.
He averages 11.6 pressures in the midfield and also makes a little over seven pressures in the defensive area. He is an excellent protector of the backline and would help the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez to have better performances on a consistent basis.
Most of all, he isn’t exactly a player who is in-demand like Zakaria or Eduardo Camavinga. It makes him a cheaper option and he is only 24 and still a long-term alternative for Mourinho. Considering they might not qualify for Champions League, Spurs may not have as much financial muscle as they did last season. In that sense, Hojbjerg makes a lot of sense.