Tottenham Hotspur manager José Mourinho has admitted that his side missed the energy of midfielder Tanguy Ndombele in Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Royal Antwerp.
Mourinho opted to use the game to rotate his side and give rests to key players like Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Ndombele, but it still came as a surprise to see a weakened Spurs come up short against the Belgian side.
Unlike the rest, Ndombele was not even named on the bench against Antwerp, instead being left at home to rest, and Mourinho confessed in hist latest press conference (via the Daily Mail) that Spurs lacked the usual drive from midfield that the Frenchman brings.
“Tanguy felt just a little sign of fatigue in a muscular area and he was also protected,” Mourinho explained. “Normally Friday he is training as normal and is ready to play Sunday, and to be honest we missed him – because he gives speed to the team.
“Thinking quick, thinking fast, moving the ball quick and fast, we missed him.”
Mourinho publicly praising Ndombele is not something Spurs fans have seen too often. The midfielder was regularly criticised by Mourinho during the early weeks of his tenure, but Ndombele has worked hard to fight his way back into the boss’ plans.
While it was direct praise for Ndombele, Mourinho’s comments also have to be taken as yet another dig at Dele Alli, who replaced Ndombele at the top of the midfield but was hauled off after 45 frustrating minutes.
It was just Alli’s second start in all competitions this season, with the Englishman seemingly plummeting down the pecking order this season, and Mourinho was clearly unimpressed with him on his return to the team.
Ndombele is likely to return to the lineup when Spurs face Brighton on Sunday, and Mourinho also revealed that midfielder Eric Dier is in contention to feature as well after overcoming an injury he picked up during the international break.
Spurs are unbeaten in five Premier League games but will still feel as though they need to bounce back after the disappointing loss to Antwerp.
For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!