Tanguy Ndombele masterclass gives Spurs fans tantalising glimpse of new era under Mauricio Pochettino


Tanguy Ndombele provided two assists against Red Star Belgrade (Picture: Getty)

If Mauricio Pochettino is in the early stages of a rebuilding job at Tottenham, then there’s worse building blocks to have in place than Tanguy Ndombele.

Signed with such perceived ease in the summer given the level of interest in his services, the Frenchman arrived from Lyon in club record £62m deal with relatively little fanfare.The reality, of course, was different. Spurs faced competition from Europe’s elite for Ndombele’s signature and Levy told the midfielder he ‘couldn’t’ leave the club’s training ground during a visit to north London until a deal was over the line.

Other than the obvious quality Ndombele possesses, the deal was crucial towards appeasing Pochettino. The Argentine has pulled off minor miracles on a limited budget at the club but their progression to last season’s Champions League final was a stick-or-twist moment in Spurs’ recent history and Levy agreed to loosen the pursestrings to finance a deal for Ndombele.

The Frenchman could be forgiven for wondering what he’d signed up for during his first three months at the club. Spurs have looked a shadow of their former selves this term and it’s to Ndombele’s credit that his performances have been one of the few shining lights in a bleak campaign thus far.

But while there have been flickers of Ndombele’s potential, he was yet to put it together into a single, maintained performance. That is, until, tonight.

Son scored twice in the 5-0 win (Picture: Getty)

Red Star Belgrade arrived in north London ahead of Spurs in the group but the distance in quality between the two teams was evident from the get-go. Ditching the 3-4-2-1 that was trialled against Watford on Saturday, Pochettino reverted to a more traditional 4-2-3-1 with a fluid three of Heung-Min Son, Dele Alli and Erik Lamela behind Harry Kane.

Spurs’ opener came after just eight minutes when Kane, who was inexplicably left unmarked at the front post, aimed a glancing header into the corner of the net from a whipped Lamela corner from the right.

Son doubled Spurs’ advantage after 16 minutes when Lamela grabbed his second assist of the night. The Argentine was slipped down the right but he feigned to get back onto his stronger left foot and he found Son unmarked at the back post with a lovely floated cross, which the South Korean finished with ease on the half-volley.

Belgrade were prevented from selling tickets to supporters due to a sanction from UEFA over a racism charge but a section of around 200-300 fans grouped in the upper tier of Spurs’ new stadium and a large steward presence was on hand to box them in.

Kane rounded off the victory (Picture: Getty)

The travelling supporters had little to shout about but they did find a foothold in the game midway through the first half and forced Paulo Gazzaniga into a smart stop when Rajiv van La Parra saw his headed effort saved.

But all hopes of a comeback were put out just seconds from half-time when Milos Degenek was caught in possession by Ndombele, who burst through the opposition half and fed Son to grab his second of the game.

The game was done and dusted but Spurs couldn’t rest on their laurels given they’d shipped seven goals against Bayern Munich on matchday two and it’s clear what the message was from Pochettino at half-time if their intent on attacking in the second half was anything to go by.

After claiming two assists of his own, Lamela got on the scoresheet when he converted from Serge Aurier’s cutback to make it 4-0 and Ndombele saved his best for last when he fizzed a superb pass into Kane, who cut back onto his right and slotted home to get his brace.

Pochettino’s side rediscovered some of their best qualities (Picture: Getty)

Pochettino has looked weary so far this term, struggling to answer the persistent questions over his future and the direction of the team. Those questions have been valid and in-part self-inflicted given Pochettino threatened to quit the club if they beat Liverpool in Madrid last June.

But if there’s a player in the ranks to convince the Argentine that it’s worth rebuilding at Spurs; that this is merely the end of a cycle and not an era, then it’s Ndombele.

The opposition were weak and Liverpool on Sunday will not give Spurs the type of space that they were afforded here. But a renewed direction is almost as important as results at this moment in time. Ndombele can become a symbol of what Spurs can look like under Pochettino’s next cycle.

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