Sober assessment of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s start at Tottenham
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was seen as an important signing for Tottenham during the summer. Although he wasn’t going to come in and transform the team, Spurs have lacked a dominating presence in the middle of the park. The Danish international has already had a big impact on the team and is now one of the first names on the team-sheet. He is the only outfield player to feature in every single minute of the new Premier League.
Jose Mourinho was quick to move for the 25-year-old during the summer and managed to beat Everton to his signature. Since the loss of form of Victor Wanyama and the departure of Mousa Dembele, there have been ongoing issues for Spurs in midfield. Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks and Giovani Lo Celso have all featured in these positions, but none of them can dominate a game. All have good qualities, but it was crucial that Tottenham managed to add a ball-winner during the summer. Hojbjerg is that player and he has been growing into his role at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
In the Premier League, he is averaging three tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game. Only Serge Aurier is winning the ball back more consistently and his sample size is much smaller, therefore, this highlights what Hojbjerg has already added. His average of 1.8 fouls per game is also second only to Aurier. This might not seem important, but in the recent Amazon documentary, Mourinho regularly spoke about how his players needed to be nastier on the pitch.
The new signing from Southampton has added some aggression and tenacity to the team. Despite this side to his game, he has been booked only once. This suggests that he is clever on the pitch and that will benefit the team.
In addition to his ball-winning ability, Hojbjerg has added energy and legs in the centre of the park. He is averaging 16.6 pressures per ninety minutes, at a success rate of 34.6. There is a slow change to the pressing game at Tottenham. During the early Mourinho era, there was little pressing, with Spurs setting up with a deep block on a number of occasions. It was a huge change from the Mauricio Pochettino style of play and supporters were starting to criticise this. The addition of Hojbjerg has allowed the midfield to become more dynamic and there have already been benefits, with the team in the top four.
This was always going to be a big period for Hojbjerg, as he attempts to fulfil his potential. During his time at Bayern Munich, he was considered as a player with world class potential. Many expected him to develop into a midfielder of Champions League standard. At Southampton, he started slowly, but the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl led to huge improvements in his game. Despite this, his signing was met with some skepticism in the summer. Few expected the 25-year-old to have the impact that he has had in North London.
After eight Premier League matches, he already looks to be an integral member of the starting eleven. If he was to get injured, it would be difficult for Tottenham to replace him and continue to play in the same fashion. The discussion around Spurs will continue to centre on Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Gareth Bale and even Mourinho himself. However, the ball-winning Danish international is playing an equally important role in the re-development of the team.
Stats taken from Whoscored and FB Ref