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Tottenham’s number ten role and puzzling fringe status of Lewis Holtby

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter a dip in form that has cost the team a potential place amongst the Champions League elite, Tottenham fans are already starting to think about next season.

A debut campaign at White Hart Lane for Mauricio Pochettino has been loaded with ups and downs, but the common perception is that the Argentine is leading the club in the right direction.

The former Southampton man is seemingly going to be given something that his predecessors were not afforded, time, with 2015-16 the acid test to the North London club’s credentials of challenging consistently for a top four berth under the Argentine.

Pochettino has largely inherited the current Spurs squad and as such he will look to tailor it to his liking this summer, with a considerable number of exits expected.

However, some others such as youngsters Alex Pritchard and Dele Alli will be given a chance to show what they are capable of in pre-season, while acquisitions seem likely.

Something of a forgotten figure in North London, the end of the current campaign will bring a certain Lewis Holtby back to the club – with his immediate future unclear.

The Germany international signed for Spurs in January 2013 and arrived with a considerable reputation, but in typical Tottenham-style he has not been given ample opportunities to fully show what he is capable of.

Holtby was victim of the emergence of Christian Eriksen as the club’s main creative force, with the skilful Dane dominating the number ten role that the former Schalke man craved.

As such, the attacking midfielder was farmed out on loan to Fulham initially, with the 24-year-old spending this season on a temporary deal at Hamburg.

The playmaker has been part of a struggling Bundesliga outfit this season but has endured injury concerns that have prohibited him from wracking up a decent run of games – he has only started 14 league fixtures this term.

Ahead of next season, there is a real case for Holtby’s inclusion in the first-team reckoning back in England.

Lewis HoltbyTactical changes by Pochettino and the underwhelming form of some of the current squad suggest that the German could well be a canny addition to the contingent.

The trend of playing Eriksen from the left-hand side of Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1 formation was started by Tim Sherwood and has been continued at times by Pochettino.

The Scandinavian’s work rate means that he has offered a more-rounded option on one of the flanks than other first-teamers, which in turn has opened the number ten role up.

Mousa Dembele and Paulihno have both been given opportunities to play in the withdrawn attacking position, while Harry Kane has also dropped into the hole when Spurs are chasing a game and have thrown on a second striker from the bench.

Dembele’s performances in the number ten role were much better than what he displayed in the centre of midfield, but not to a standard to suggest that he can command the role on a long-term basis.

Paulinho’s time at Tottenham appears doomed and his presence at number ten did little to suggest that he will be part of Pochettino’s long-term thinking.

As such, with Spurs eager to add dependable options in the attacking third, Holtby’s return to first-team consideration makes sense ahead of next season.

Tottenham have been guilty of not giving international-quality players time to establish themselves in the starting XI, with Gylfi Sigurðsson’s sale to Swansea a classic example of this.

With Pochettino’s current options in the number ten role not inspiring huge amounts of confidence, the presence of the Icelandic star would have been a boost this season.

Holtby’ career has stagnated since he opted to move to White Hart Lane, but ahead of a new season and with a new manager at the club’s helm, it could well be a fresh start for the German midfielder.

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