So, it has been made official by Tottenham Hotspur that we have finally completed the signing of defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama from Southampton, but he will not be able to walk into the starting eleven, he will face stiff competition from day one in Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele.
As I have discussed before, I believe that the signing of Wanyama is extremely healthy for the Spurs squad, especially those in the defensive midfield, with the new signing providing vital squad competition in that area. The battle for holding midfield spots is likely to be a three-horse race between Dier, Dembele and Wanyama, and the signing of the Kenyan could spell the end for Nabil Bentaleb, Tom Carroll, or even Ryan Mason. But how will the arrival of Wanyama have an impact on the Spurs starting eleven?
Mauricio Pochettino has two options following the signing of Wanyama. He now knows that he has three quality defensive midfielders in his squad, he can either leave them to battle it out for first team opportunities, or he can change the system to accommodate all three.
It is pretty safe to say that if we are to see a change to the system, it will not be in practice in the early games of the season, due to Dembele’s ban that keeps him out for the early part of the season. Having said this, in order to accommodate all three midfielders, the two formations that Pochettino would most likely look at would be 4-5-1 and 4-3-3. The only real difference between the two formations is the position of the two wingers, the 4-3-3 sees the wingers push up higher, and essentially play as attackers alongside Harry Kane.
However, for me, one of the possible formation changes could spell the end for potentially for at least one of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen or Erik Lamela, and allows very little room for rotation for the likes of Nacer Chadli or Heung-min Son. In my opinion, a formation change does not look to be the wise thing to do. Besides, why change a system that works? We all know what could have been if we held our nerve at vital moments last season.
Now that we have explored the possibilities of a formation change, and seen that this is probably a path that Mauricio Pochettino should not look at taking heading into next season, we can start to look at who might start next season in those two defensive midfield positions, assuming that Pochettino sticks with the 4-2-3-1.
Towards the end of the season, the partnership built between Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele proved to be an effective and successful one as the pair bossed the midfield. However, it seemed that once we lost Dembele through a ban, the whole team seemed to fall apart against Southampton and Newcastle. Although you could argue that the draw at Stamford Bridge after being two goals up and losing the league was the real catalyst to a nightmare last two games of the season. Putting that aside, we can all agree that losing Dembele certainly didn’t help the cause.
Coming in at Spurs, Wanyama will see that Dembele misses the first four games of the season, and will see this as a perfect opportunity to impress Pochettino and perform well in the midfield alongside his defensive midfield partner, most likely to be Eric Dier for the first four games of the campaign.
However, the the selection headache will begin for Pochettino once Dembele returns from his ban. Again, he will be left with a few choices; stick with the Dier-Wanyama partnership, leaving Dembele out; bring Dembele in and revert back to the partnership he formed with Eric Dier at the tail-end of last season; or does he drop Eric Dier and play Wanyama and Dembele alongside each other.
I am fairly confident that Wanyama will start the season alongside Eric Dier, but what happens after Dembele returns is a lot less certain. My gut feeling is that Pochettino will revert back to the partnership that Dier and Dembele shared at the end of last season, but Wanyama has that opportunity at the start of the season to work wonders for himself and cement his place in the starting eleven even when Dembele returns.
Who do you think will start in front of the back four for Spurs next season when Dembele completes his ban?