Despite his moments of individual genius in a Tottenham shirt, Tanguy Ndombele’s time in north London has been strangely understated.
Signed from Lyon for £55m back in the summer of 2019, Ndombele was meant to be the creative heartbeat of Spurs’ midfield. Arriving with a reputation for technical excellence and superb vision with the ball at his feet, he’s given fans little reason to doubt his talent in the interim.
Unfortunately, that talent has only shone through intermittently in north London. Hampered by injuries, shunted around the midfield and arguably stifled by the conservative tactics that have characterised Spurs’ last few seasons, Ndombele has struggled to realise his full potential in the Premier League.
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With Oliver Skipp suspended for Spurs’ game against Leeds on Sunday, Ndombele could well come back into the starting line-up after a spell on the bench. Asked about Spurs’ record signing and his difficulties in maintaining a consistent starting spot recently, Antonio Conte suggested that Ndombele still has a chance to stake his claim to a fixed role in the team.
“I have seen that many managers struggle about this situation, about the position,” said Conte. “Tanguy has the quality. At the same time he has to understand that there is a team and he has to play into the team. I think it means that it is important to keep order and to do what the position asks you to do.
“For sure with Tanguy we are working. We are working very hard. He has to work much more than the others, because he has talent but he has to put this talent into the team for the best of the team, not for the single player.
“In my football, I have an idea and in this idea there are tasks for the players. Every single player has to know what he has to do. Otherwise, if every player just goes and runs around the pitch, I think it will be a mess.”
Given that Spurs have failed to register a shot on target in their last two Premier League fixtures against Everton and Manchester United, they need Ndombele at his creative best. “We have to improve,” Conte said, when asked about results under his tenure so far. “My ideas have to go into the minds of my players, offensively and defensively.
“To arrive in a club in the middle of a season is never easy. Honestly, I don’t like to do this. But the opportunity to be the Tottenham coach has changed a bit my plan.
“I can tell you that now I’m happy. But we need a bit of time. We are working very hard to improve this process as quickly as possible but we need a bit of time and a bit of patience.
“But I’m happy because I’m seeing great ability from the players and this is very important to reduce the time for them to understand the ideas.”
Conte will be without Cristian Romero for the game against Leeds after he picked up a hamstring problem during Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Brazil earlier in the week.
“We have a few problems after the international break,” Conte confirmed. “Romero is injured.
“I spoke with the doctor and now it’s right to wait seven days, 10 days to have another scan and to understand the time he will need to recover. Also, Giovani Lo Celso has a little problem and I’m not sure if he’ll be available. We’ll see for Sunday.”
In a more positive development, Bryan Gil and Ryan Sessegnon have returned to training and both should be available for selection this weekend. “To have them in the squad is good news for us and also for the players,” Conte added.
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