Is Tottenham’s Hojbjerg already the Premier League signing of the season?
The London club sit top of the English top flight after 11 games and while Pep Guardiola tries to rebuild his Manchester City side and Jurgen Klopp complains about endless fixtures and injuries, Mourinho currently comes across as the definition of composure. His Spurs side are beginning to look like genuine title contenders.
However, while the bright lights and column inches may be gushing over the playmaking of Harry Kane or goalscoring of Son Heung-min, the real heart beat of this team is a midfielder the club picked up in the summer for just £15 million: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
|Stat (total amount this season)||Ranking in the Premier League|
|Defensive challenges won||6th|
|Ball recoveries in opp. half||9th|
|Total accurate passes||4th|
Hojbjerg was signed from Southampton in the summer and has gone on to play every single minute of Tottenham’s Premier League campaign to date. And when we look at his stats it becomes perfectly clear that the midfielder is not only one of the top performers in his position in the English top flight this season but perhaps one of the overall best players this season.
From the base of Mourinho’s midfield, the Dane has typified the style of football that has brought the Portuguese manager so much success throughout his managerial career.
Hojbjerg’s impressive start to the season
So far this season Hojbjerg is 11th in the Premier League for total challenges won but when we break that down specifically to defensive challenges the 25-year-old midfielder sits sixth among all players and first among midfielders in the division.
Similarly, no other player in the division this season has made more tackles than Hojbjerg has in Tottenham’s midfield. And when we rank every player in the division based on ball recoveries in the opposition half, the Denmark international comes ninth.
Indeed, Hojbjerg has always been a gifted reader of the game but in Mourinho’s new counter-attacking system the midfielder can guard the centre of the park and break up opposing attacks tremendously. He may not be the most high-profile central midfielder in the Premier League this season but you’d struggle to find any other that is getting the kind of results Tottenham’s latest recruit is currently stacking up.
Of course, he isn’t just a midfield hatchet man. Hojbjerg’s role in the team is to win the ball back and then pass it on to the likes of Kane or Son and when we look at this side of the Dane’s game we also see him excelling beyond his counterparts at other clubs.
Not only is Hojbjerg fifth in the Premier League for total passes but when we filter that down to just midfielders the Tottenham player sits second only to Man City midfielder Rodri, who plays in a system that demands far more of the ball and a lot more passing from individual players.
Yet, what’s perhaps even more important to Mourinho’s system is that when we shift the metric slightly to only count accurate passes, Hojbjerg moves up to fourth in the division. And is second, again, only to Rodri at Man City.
So not only have Tottenham managed to pick up an expert defensive midfielder with the physicality, tenacity and intelligence to break up opposing attacks better than just about any central midfielder in the Premier League this season, but they’ve also managed to find one that is almost unrivalled in his care with the ball when in possession.
Whether Tottenham can go all the way and push Liverpool, Man City or even Chelsea for this season’s Premier League remains to be seen but if they do then it’ll almost surely be thanks to Hojbjerg’s performances in the middle of the park. And for just £15 million he may already be proving to be the best bit of business in the English top flight this season.