An analysis of Moussa Sissoko's time at Tottenham is probably something most Spurs fans feel they could sum up with a choice word or two. Thankfully Khaled goes into a bit more detail regarding our deadline day signing.
You know it’s a panic buy when you spend £30 million on a deadline day transfer who actually has a market value of around £15m-£18m at most. Moussa Sissoko is a player possibly just below that range.
For me, prior to us signing Sissoko, it was important that we signed an effective winger. By that I mean, someone who was more prominent to getting goals and assists, since Son had a fairly average season last year, and the same could be said for Lamela. We were too dependent on Kane, Alli and Eriksen that it was necessary to build out of that. Fortunately for us, Son has played a huge part in this season already, but we still lack that quality player on the other flank.
In those terms, Sissoko’s best season in England (2013/14) was when he registered three goals and six assists in 35 appearances. His best goal scoring season was the next (2014/15) where he recorded four goals and two assists in 34 appearances. In total, in 130 Premier League starts, Sissoko has registered 11 goals and 19 assists. For a slight comparison, Nacer Chadli, who arrived to England a season later, in the same period, has scored 20 goals and assisted 13 times in 70 starts.
“We need a player who is more direct, more aggressive offensively” – Pochettino after our 1-1 draw at the Lane against Liverpool, prior to signing Sissoko
Looking more in depth into these figures, it can be noticed that he is a very inconsistent player. He is neither a form player nor a ‘one-man-team’ type of player. For a top four team, he is a squad player at most. In his 16 appearances for us in the league (ten as a substitute), he has best performed while coming off the bench for the last twenty minutes or so. He has only been a “game changer” in one game, that against Burnley. The other two in which he has had a direct impact (Swansea and Southampton), the game was already won.
When Poch talked about a more aggressive and direct player in the attacking end, you would expect a player pushing teams, questioning their defensive players and getting into areas which will be difficult for them to win the ball. With Sissoko, you can see that attempt happening, at least in numbers. Compared to last season, his successful dribbles have improved along with his key passes. He has also been dispossessed far less but his shots per game have reduced, possibly due to his conversation rate being significantly poor this season.
While looking into individual player highlights, I couldn’t help but notice that at most times while Sissoko dribbled, he was being very indecisive. For him, it was more important to get into position, rather than the delivery. This may be him trying to impress the manager by showing attentiveness to the tactics but games are very dynamic, and he has shown to be best when he makes his instinctive decisions (as against Burnley) rather than otherwise. And that’s why he may be seen more effective off the bench, when the game has opened up more and is end to end.
Sissoko has also been involved less defensively, in terms of tackles and interceptions. His physical strength and potential to early breaks shows that an improvement in this front would be beneficial to his game as it adds to his play. So there are hopes for improvement in a few areas since he hasn’t really played to all his strengths yet.
Sissoko was most noticeable during his display at Euro 2016, where he was consistent in performance, and who added something different than what the other individual talents in his team possessed. Assessing those performances, it can be seen that he was more of a player who broke play, had a large defensive contribution and gave the ball to the more influential players in the team. He was simplified and had didn’t try too hard at most times. But he did not really play a vital part in terms of key passes but his passing percentage was one of his highest at 88.7%. So perhaps he is best for winning the ball back, and distributing to play
“We need someone who has characteristics like we saw from Liverpool, like Sadio Mané, the type of player that can break the defensive line. I’m not talking about kicking or punching someone, only running and having the right mentality.” – Pochettino, prior to signing Sissoko
So perhaps he is best for winning the ball back, and distributing to player far superior than him in those areas. But regardless, he needs to add more fluidity to his game. By being more dynamic, he has the ability to turn into the Mane style player but it all comes with confidence and consistency. For me, he has been playing it safe at most times in attempts to please the manager and by doing so he is trying to improve his individual play. But it has been frustrating at most times because it affects his end product and leads to errors which can be easily rectified.
The advantage for Sissoko over our other midfield players, wide and central, is his physical attributes along with acceleration, making him the more “aggressive” player Pochettino wants. But without really converting these attributes to something more incisive for the team to use, he doesn’t provide much for us. It is important for him to show that he can be more daring and confident than he is because that’s what will make him the £30 million we want and need. Until then, you can expect more of the same because this is him trying.
*credits to @FusballRadars the graphs, and WhoScored and Transfermarkt for the data
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