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Ange must boldly drop 3/10 Spurs star who Rice would dominate

Written by on April 27, 2024

If it’s going to happen, it’s going to take a Herculean effort. Tottenham Hotspur need to win on Sunday to continue their climb toward a place in the top four, but, more importantly, for some, Spurs need to find a way to stifle heated rivals Arsenal in their fight for the Premier League title.

Tottenham are in a period of transition following Ange Postecoglou’s arrival last summer, succeeding Antonio Conte, who left the outfit in tatters – with no love lost.

But, while being drubbed against Newcastle United last time out in the top flight, Spurs have matched last year’s points total with six games to spare, needing a goal-per-game rate to beat the 2022/23 goalscoring tally and needing to concede fewer than two per game to complete a better defensive record.

But Arsenal are a machine, strengthened by laboratory-developed unity and an inner belief that might just see them topple Manchester City at the end of a gripping title battle.

That said, Spurs – who still play both sides and out-of-form contenders Liverpool – will have their say, starting with tomorrow afternoon’s fixture. Can Postecoglou send his supporters into rapture?

Spurs team news

Destiny Udogie’s season is over after the 21-year-old full-back, so important within Postecoglou’s system, underwent surgery on an injury last weekend.

Moreover, Pedro Porro will face a late assessment as he recovers from a hamstring strain that sidelined him at St. James’ Park last time out – the last time Spurs’ starring full-backs were both absent, Spurs lost at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Richarlison is also a doubt, while Ryan Sessegnon, Manor Solomon and Fraser Forster remain long-term absentees.

In central midfield, Spurs have a clean bill of health, though Postecoglou could finally ditch Yves Bissouma after a poor run of form.

Yves Bissouma’s season in numbers

Bissouma had started the 2023/24 campaign emphatically, producing results that did not materialise last season, after he was signed from Brighton & Hove Albion for a fee rising to £35m.


Yves Bissouma.

His exploits on the south coast had led presenter Gary Lineker to describe him as an “exceptional footballer“, such was the level of his performance at Brighton.

But injuries and a struggle to integrate restricted the Mali international to just ten Premier League starts last year, and while he emerged as a man reborn in the early phase of Postecoglou’s reign, his long-time disciplinary issues – which have led to a host of separate suspensions – and a break from domestic action at AFCON in January have led to a decline in form that has left him under heavy fire in recent weeks.

Yves Bissouma: Recent PL Match Ratings

Fixture

Score

Match Rating

Newcastle United (A)

4-0 loss

3/10

Nottingham Forest (H)

3-1 win

6/10

West Ham United (A)

1-1 draw

7/10

Luton Town (H)

2-1 win

5/10

Fulham (A)

3-0 loss

3/10

Sourced via football.london

As per FBref, Bissouma ranks among the top 1% of midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for pass completion the top 5% for tackles and the top 7% for interceptions per 90, so it’s obvious that there’s a player in there – it’s been showcased this season.

Why Yves Bissouma must be benched vs Arsenal

Bissouma might have the ability but he isn’t meshing it all together right now – and with Rodrigo Bentancur, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Pape Matar Sarr all fighting for a starting berth, the 27-year-old must surely now be benched, having started eight top-flight games in succession despite failing to impress.

Bissouma’s erraticness could see him swallowed up in the testing affair awaiting, with his recent inability to grasp games and control them speaking of a loss of form that could lay waste to Spurs’ hopes of beating Arsenal – having been dubbed “inconsistent” by Spurs reporter George Sessions.

Sure, he’s one of the most gifted players in Tottenham’s squad, but the north Londoners cannot afford another hiccup against free-scoring Arsenal, whose territorial domination and high-press borders on superlative.

Mikel Arteta’s side are intoxicating and intelligent, moving with the muscle memory of winners, shifting through the passages as one, a hive mind of thrash metal, balletic swagger.


Declan Rice celebrates

Still, they aren’t unbeatable, and Tottenham have the tools to inflict damage on an Arsenal side that has recently crashed out of the Champions League against an under-par Bayern Munich side, ceding ground in the Premier League with a loss at home against Aston Villa one week ago.

However, the midfield battle will be crucial and it’s hard to believe that Bissouma, based on current form, boasts the solidness and confidence to best Declan Rice, who has been the Gunners’ engine this year.

In the Premier League this season, Rice has clinched six goals and six assists apiece across 34 appearances, completing 91% of his passes, averaging 2.1 tackles and 4.7 ball recoveries per game and winning 57% of his ground duels.

He’s also been described as “the player of the season” by Emmanuel Petit this week as he continues to go from strength to strength in his first campaign for Arsenal, with his work-rate and decision-making marking him as one of Europe’s elite.

Who will start in the centre of the park for Spurs remains to be seen, but the energy of Sarr could blend excellently with the industriousness of Bentancur, or indeed the crisp-passing style of Hojbjerg – with the latter two coming on at half-time during Tottenham’s last victory, against Nottingham Forest, and scoring 8/10 match ratings, courtesy of football.london’s Alasdair Gold.

Bissouma was one of the replaced midfielders in that one, having faded as the opening half went on after a bright start.

Related

Spurs lining up “monster” striker to end their no.9 problem

Tottenham would close the gap on those at the top of the Premier League by securing this signing.

Rice is slick and stylish, oiled to perfection and ready to trump the likes of Bissouma. Tottenham have a good chance against Arsenal, on home soil, but after a string of efforts that have left much to be desired, the tough-tackling midfielder must surely now be replaced.

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