Much was made last season of the fact that Spurs did not sign a single player over the course of last season.
Despite this lack of transfer activity we still saw them finish fourth in the Premier League and reach the Champions League final.
Much of the credit for their performances last season should, of course, be attributed to their Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino and his ability to develop and use the players at his disposal. There was still a sense, however, that they needed to add at least one more player to reach the next level.
The above may go some way to explaining the willingness of the club, and the famously financially prudent chairman Daniel Levy, to part with a reported £55million fee, a club record, to sign French international midfielder Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon.
The 22-year-old profiles as the perfect midfielder for this Spurs team but his route to the top of European football has been anything but straightforward.
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Initially on the books of Guingamp as a young player Ndombele was not even offered a professional contract. He ended up dropping down the divisions to sign with Amiens at which point his potential started to emerge. After just one season he moved from Amiens to Lyon on loan, but with a crucial option to buy clause.
With just a handful of games at Lyon it quickly became apparent they had unearthed a gem as he began dominating matches in the centre of midfield. At the end of the 2017/18 season, the transfer was finalised for a reported £8m.
In the 2018/19 season, Ndombele continued to shine with his all-action style seeing him press and challenge opponents when out of possession and drive his side forward relentlessly in the attacking phase.
As you can see from his heatmap over the course of last season, Ndombele is a midfielder that covers ground exceptionally well and controls the entire centre of the pitch.
He was generally used by Lyon as a right-sided ‘8’ and you can see from the map that the majority of his actions took place on the right of the centre. I fully expect to see him play for Spurs in that same role and fans of the club should be excited to see such a dominant player moving to their club.
In this tactical analysis, we will consider Ndombele in more detail to show Spurs fans what they can expect from their new man next season.
For a long period of time pass completion statistics were thought to be the best indicator of midfield talent from a statistical perspective.
Over the course of the last 12 months, we have seen this change and players with high completion percentages who simply play safe passes are being valued less than players who are willing to take more risks in possession in order to progress the ball forward.
In Tanguy Ndombele, Spurs have signed one of the best ball progressors in European football both in terms of passing the ball and when carrying the ball forward, more on that later.
Last season we saw Ndombele average 19.48 forward passes per 90 minutes with an 84.3% success rate of these passes.
Here, we see an example of Ndombele’s passing and vision in full effect.
In possession of the ball just inside his own half, the opposition are sitting off in a relatively passive defensive block. This is primarily because they know how dangerous Ndombele can be if they try to press him aggressively and get too close when he is in possession.
He is just as likely to beat an opponent in a 1v1 situation as he is to pass through them. This poses huge problems to the opposition defensive plans as they have to plan to disrupt Ndombele by either pressing or standing off of him despite knowing that neither is likely to be successful.
In this example, as he picks up possession of the ball, his attention appears to be on the near side where there is a Lyon player in space.
Instead, as the opposition defence starts to react to this potential threat and move across we see Ndombele instead reverse the ball and play through the lines to release a forward player on the highest line.
This pass creates a goalscoring opportunity for his side.
This time we see Ndombele driving forward in possession towards the opposition defensive block.
The opposition has fallen back into a deep and compact block and space appears to be in the wide areas. Instead of looking to pass into these areas, however, we see Ndombele drive a through ball between the defensive block to once again release a forward player into space in front of the opposition penalty area.
This simple pass takes eight opposition players out of the game immediately.
As touched upon above, Ndombele is extremely effective when progressing the ball through dribbling.
He is exceptionally strong in 1v1 attacking situations and has the ability to beat players in central areas over and over again.
In this aspect of the game, it appears that Spurs may have finally addressed the loss of their former midfield star Mousa Dembele with another player who can carry the ball through the midfield.
Last season saw Ndombele average more than five dribbles per 90 minutes, a remarkable output for a central midfielder.
Ndombele is one of the most press resistant players in top-level football.
This simply means that as he receives the ball and the opposition players press to win it back he does not lose the ball. He stays on it extremely well using a combination of strength and technical quality and can often beat more than one player in a dribbling action.
We can see an example of this above as Ndombele initially receives the ball from a defensive player with his back to goal. He holds off the press of the closest defensive player before turning and driving into the highlighted area.
As he does so he goes past the covering defender and forces a third player to move out to engage the ball. As the last defender closes on the ball Ndombele beats him as well.
He has, in the space of a few seconds, beaten three players in the central area and progressed into the final third.
We see a similar situation here with Ndombele, first of all, engaging an opposition player who was in possession of the ball.
The midfielder dispossesses his opponent quickly and holds off his attempts to win the ball back. We then see Ndombele drive forward in possession where he engages two opposition players and moves past both of them.
Once again Ndombele has progressed his side up the pitch quickly and efficiently through his dribbling ability.
With Ndombele’s ability in 1v1 situations when his side are attacking it stands to reason this translates well to similar situations when his side does not have the ball.
Ndombele uses his pace and strength to cover the centre of the pitch and he closes down opposition players constantly.
Again, this work rate without the ball should suit the defensive game model used by his new coach perfectly. Over the course of last season, we saw Ndombele average 3.86 interceptions per 90 minutes and 6.74 recoveries in the opposition half per 90 minutes.
In this example, we see the opposition trying to escape a heavy Lyon press in their own half.
As the man in possession looks to make what appears to be a comfortable 10 yard forward pass we see Ndombele read the game and start to make a move to engage the man the ball is being played in to. As the ball is received Ndombele is already in place to engage the ball and win the ball back for his team.
Once again in the above example, we see Ndombele reading the game and winning the ball back for his team.
As the opposition look to move the ball through the Lyon press they initially combine well to move the ball past the first layer of pressing players.
As the second pass is made we see Ndombele quickly moving across to engage the ball and win back possession. From this we see Lyon launching an attack of their own and creating a goalscoring opportunity.
There is a genuine chance that Spurs have signed a player that can define his role and his position in the Premier Leauge for the next ten years.
Tanguy Ndombele is the perfect midfield player for Mauricio Pochettino with his capacity to perform just as well whether his side are in or out of possession.
The French international will quickly assert himself as a force in the Premier League and in European competitions for his new side.