Tottenham miss Toby Alderweireld’s presence, but their Premier League struggles so far this season are more due to Victor Wanyama’s long-term absence.
During the 2016-17 season I wrote a piece about how pivotal Wanyama is to Spurs’ high pressure success, and now we have further evidence to reinforce that assertion. While the loss of Alderweireld is having an unequivocal detrimental effect on results, Wanyama’s absence is being felt even more acutely.
The Kenyan made 36 appearances in the 2016-17 season, and was only on the losing side in four of those contests. With Wanyama protecting Tottenham’s rearguard, Spurs claimed 80 of 108 total points, equating to an impressive 74 percent return.
I’m not usually a superstitious man, but I do feel slightly accountable, even bereft about claiming last year that Wanyama is “seemingly immune to injury.”
Regardless of my degree of culpability, Spurs miss their main fulcrum in midfield more than a freshly incarcerated man misses the ability to roam freely. The Kenyan international, when uninhibited by injury, is omnipresent, like a Category-5 hurricane enveloping a city.
His ailing knee has kept him out of all but two Premier League matches this season. Since going down with the lingering, long-term injury, Spurs have managed 22 point from a possible 39. That’s an overall point return of a miserly 56 percent.
He finished the 2016-17 season with 90 tackles, the ninth most in the top flight. But more importantly, he offered his backline immaculate protection, his reliability matched only by tireless energy and knack for finding an outlet pass.
Wanyama’s unparalleled ability to disrupt the opposition is one of the main reasons Pochettino was able to switch to a back three. Opposing teams were forced to either knock it long or try, often at their peril, to play out of the back under duress. Either way, the athletic Kenyan was poised, perfectly positioned to anticipate and cover as required.
Still only 26 years old, Wanyama has about five seasons to perform at his peak level. That is, of course, if he can regain the agility, pace, strength and athleticism that underpinned his otherworldly ability.
Sports Illustrated recently reported that Wanyama is scheduled to make his first-team return during the busy festive period.
It’s the kind of news, if it pans out, that would make true millions of Spurs supporters Christmas wish.
But I’d be lying if I said Wanyama’s return is the only thing I want for Christmas. My Christmas list includes Alderweireld miraculously recovering from his hamstring ailment, along with a world-class striker being dropped out of the sky over North London by a stalk, aiding Harry Kane in his goal-scoring plight. I wouldn’t mind it if Mousa Dembele returns to his pre-injury form, either.
Call it greedy, even gluttonous, but getting precisely what you want is the only thing that gives the festive season meaning.
Or did I completely miss the boat on the true meaning of Christmas spirit?
(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)