VS Preview: Huddersfield Town v Spurs
Is this the dawning of the era of Sissoko!
Mauricio Pochettino believes that the previously considered donkey that is Moussa Sissoko has improved considerably to the point where we won't be going for Ross Barkley in January! Sissoko was thought to be one of the worst signings since Paulinho and no one thought he was worth £30million. Sissoko has started only 13 matches in all competitions so far and we still await his first goal. He has just two assists in the Premier League but suddenly, with the future of Moussa looking fragile, Sissoko has a crucial part to play in the eyes of Poch. Has Poch seen something we haven't or does he need Sissoko because he is running out of alternatives?
Moussa's on-going foot and ankle problems have restricted him to only five starts this season, Wanyama hasn't played since the 2-1 defeat by Chelsea on August 20 and while Harry Winks is back he has not yet regained the form he had before injuring an ankle at Burnley last April. Some say Sissoko, was impressive in the 3-2 win at West Ham last Saturday and one assumes, after Poch's comments of Siss after the Apoel game, he is in the team for our game at the John Smith Stadium? Sissoko was signed to play wide on the right, but he had one of the best games of his career in the centre, when France were beaten by Portugal in the Euro 2016 Final. Though he isn't Dembele, Sissoko's strength and ability to travel box to box makes him dangerous in either zone - when in form! The arrival of Serge Aurier appears to have given him a lift, Sissoko spent a year playing with Aurier in Toulouse before he joined Newcastle in January 2013. Sissoko and Aurier combined effectively on several occasions last weekend which was an encouraging sign, especially if we are to break down teams this season, we will need that kind of power. Sissoko is not good out on the wing. Verts has said 'Maybe he is used to playing more regularly on the wing than in the middle, but he has done better in the centre of the park.' The injuries that we have sustained both short term and long term have shown just how thin we are in certain areas. Whilst Auriers suspension is not a major blow because we have Trippier for the Huddersfield game we don't really have a like for like player for Dembele or Eriksen or indeed Dele Alli. Our back line is actually in better condition than our midfield in terms of depth so, with or without Sissoko, would passing up on Barklay be a good shout?
Statistically, in the 27 matches Spurs have played under Poch directly following a European tie, we have won just 12 times, drawn seven and lost eight. In percentage terms, that's 44% wins, 26% draws and 30% losses. When directly compared with our domestic form over a period of 135 matches in the league and cup, in the same season as our European fixtures under Poch, we have won 56 times, drawn 23 and lost 21. That's 56% wins, 23% draws and 21% losses. Based on those stats, matches played directly after a European game means we are 12% less likely to win and 10% more likely to lose. Statistically then this game with Huddersfield is in the balance! We all know how we played against Swansea after the Dortmund game! We will have to make sure that the boys are up for this one with no European hangover, like the ones that used to blight our post Europa League games. Yes, this game is going to be Towns biggest game of the season so far. Yes, it will be a chance for them to up their game and have a pop at one of the top clubs in the Prem. No, it's not an excuse for us to have an off day! Huddersfield are better off against sides that come to play football especially under David Wagner. Wagner will know he is playing a very good team with a very good record against newly promoted sides. Getting six points from promoted teams is a habit for us we did it against Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull last season, and Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford the year before. Given the high energy nature with which Town play under Wagner, it's something that we may like cos it leaves space at the back.
These are the fixtures that Huddersfield have dreamt of all summer so you can bet they will play out of their skins. They haven't faced us in 35 years which is why this game will feel more like an FA Cup round than a Premier League match as the Town fans will come in with no expectations except to see their team give it a right go. Town will have had a week to prepare for this game and will hope that two long haul flights will see a jaded Spurs team turn up. We have to make sure we don't come out jaded and we must not pick up any more injuries because we have a really gruesome October to get through. I guess Demeble is being saved for the Real Madrid match so I don't expect we`ll see him play against Bournemouth either!
Huddersfield town started off their first ever appearance in the Premiership with a loss to West Ham and then a credible away draw with Leicester and a draw away against Burnley. No doubt their fighting spirit comes from their manager who has performed miracles to get the club to be part of the PL. We meanwhile have failed to knock over Burnley and Swansea at Wembley but away our form is taking on a serious run. Huddersfield provides yet another team that, by rights, should be easily defeated. In fact, if a player like Dele Alli is out of nick then this match should be the ideal game to get himself back into form. Town will be marking Kane and Eriksen out of the game and it will be down to CB Schindler to keep him out, which may give Dele the space and time he needs to get on the score sheet. Verts is back so it will probably be Poch's preferred formation of Sanchez Verts and Toby, Davies and Trippier on the flanks Dier in Front of the back line. However, although Winks played well on Tuesday Sissoko will probably play in the diamond that is Eriksen, Alli and Kane with Son coming on as the super-sub and Llorente on for Harry provided he has scored his hat-trick by the 75th minute! COYS!