Moussa Sissoko has improved considerably for Tottenham, but did Liverpool miss show he still has some way to go?
Tottenham take on Crystal Palace in their first match at their new stadium on Wednesday night and they will hope to quickly bounce back from the disappointment of losing 2-1 to Liverpool at the weekend.
It could have all been so different, had Moussa Sissoko not squandered a chance with the scores level, he blazed over the bar.
Much has been made of his improvement, but was that miss a stark reminder Sissoko still has some way to go?
As the ball flew high into the stands, there were fears it was heading for a back garden somewhere in Kirby – its whereabouts still to be confirmed.
The moment that proceeded Sissoko’s wayward attempt at goal was a visual paradox of the recent renaissance we were led to believe was nearly complete.
Powering forward, ‘only’ Virgil van Dijk stood between Sissoko and glory, a chance to be Tottenham‘s hero and a demi-god in both parts of Manchester.
His ungainly run lacked conviction, you sensed it was never going to end the way it should have long before he received the ball.
The Frenchman always looks confused, unsure if the pass he has just controlled, was truly meant for him, desperate to get rid like a hot rock in a closed fist.
Now he was being asked to define both a match and a season, this was not in his script.
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You sense had Harry Kane, Dele Alli, heck, even Jan Vertonghen, been in that position, the net may have rippled, Alisson would have at least been tested, reality instead produced neither, his Demba Ba imitation was woeful to say the least.
But was this an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke that had come full circle, albeit 24 hours early?
Had Spurs fans been hoodwinked into believing Sissoko’s supposed rectification would end with a composed finish into the bottom corner?
Obviously not, but you half expected Mauricio Pochettino to sprint towards the travelling support, gesticulating and yelling ‘got ya’ as the realisation slowly became apparent to those still digesting a missed opportunity.
While Pochettino is credited with making Spurs a solid, title-contending team, competing in the Champions League, his genius lies in getting the best out Sissoko.
Signed for £30million back in 2016 from relegated Newcastle, the Frenchman spent the first two seasons impersonating a man who had just read ‘how to be a footballer’ on the way to his medical.
He seemed to lack the basic fundamentals, control the ball, pass the ball, it was hard to watch.
The awkwardness whenever he had possession or went looking for it was apparent to his team-mates, their confidence in him dwindled.
Yet remarkably, last summer, something changed and Sissoko went from ridicule to a key member of the side.
The sale of Mousa Dembele, lack of transfer activity and an extensive injury list have aided his inclusion massively as has the belief from Pochettino.
The Argentine realised he was best suited to the centre rather than out wide, blind alleys have never known of such a visitor, and his quiet confidence in the midfielder had gradually transmitted over to the fans.
“Everyone knows the first two years here were not easy for me and maybe it took some time to adapt with a new team but also a new style of football because when I was in Newcastle the system was totally different and even the culture of the manager was different,” Sissoko said in a recent interview.
Against Chelsea in November, he was excellent, here, there and everywhere, Sissoko appeared to know what he was doing and in turn manage to convince others, who had previously felt otherwise. He worked tirelessly and seemed to have turned a corner.
Fast forward five months and for anyone getting too carried away, Sunday was proof that Sissoko is capable of reverting to type, ‘normal service has been resumed’, one fan wrote when describing his performance.
The White Hart Lane faithful have been led to believe Sissoko has improved beyond recognition, but it is likely, many of them would have had him low on their list for ‘one-on-ones with the goalkeeper’ and with good reason.
In three years at the club, there has been one Premier League goal, against Huddersfield Town in 2017.
This season, even less. Fourteen shots, three on target, all coming in 25 appearances, 23 of those as a starter.
At Liverpool, Sissoko had the chance to break his duck and fluffed his lines. What remains to be seen is how he reacts from here onward, whether this will effect his once fragile confidence or if the transformation from scapegoat to player reborn is not simply a tagline.
Much like his play, you can never be quite sure with Sissoko and only time will tell.
Source: SportsLatest TS