Nabil Bentaleb impressed on debut against Southampton. Can he become a regular feature in the side?
The French midfielder started his career in Lille, joining their academy at the age of 15, before moving to Belgium to join R.E Mouscron. Bentaleb was then signed by Spurs last year whilst he was on trial at Birmingham, after Tottenham scouts instantly recognised his talent.
The 19-year-old has progressed rapidly during a short space of time, being moved up to Tottenham’s Under 21’s for the second half of last season, where he scored four times in 14 appearances. He made the bench under Andre Villas-Boas for the Capital One Cup tie against Hull City in October but has never been able to prove his talent until last Sunday.
Sherwood has worked closely with Bentaleb, having been heavily involved with the Spurs youth squads for the past few years, and clearly felt the central midfielder was ready to step up into the action. Dembele hobbled off at St Mary’s after 50 minutes, and Sherwood made the bold decision to bring on Nabil Bentaleb, over Lewis Holtby and Etienne Capoue.
The move was effective. Bentaleb slotted straight into the heart of the Spurs lineup alongside Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, acting as the most defensive member of a highly attacking Spurs midfield. The Frenchman looked so composed on the ball, and was able to showcase his own game, seemingly without any nerves.
Intercepting the ball, winning it back, and moving it forward. Bentaleb kept it simple, but very tidy, as he commanded the centre of the park for Spurs. Incredibly, he seemed to inspire the rest of the team to fight to retain the football, as Spurs had struggled in the first-half.
There was a certain hunger about Tottenham in the second-half as they went on to win the game 3-2, Bentaleb playing a part in the build up to the second goal, as he drove the ball forward before releasing to Eriksen. The Dane found Rose on the overlap, and his cross was steered into the net by Saints defender Jos Hooiveld.
After the game, Sherwood was quick to praise the youngster. “It's about the heat of the battle and knowing who you can trust, and the kid's ready to play,” Sherwood said. “I knew what I was going to get. I knew he wouldn't be fazed. He was cool. He trains like every day is the last day in the world, listens and has a fantastic attitude. I know I can trust that kid.”
Spurs fans have an exciting talent at their disposal in Bentaleb, and with Sherwood in charge, it is likely we will be seeing some more of the young star. Although he will be fighting for a place in an already impressive midfield, with the likes of Paulinho, Sandro, Moussa Dembele and Etienne Capoue all desperate to feature every week.
But with a busy schedule, and games coming thick and fast, Nabil Bentaleb will be confident that he will have more opportunities to shine in the Spurs first-team.
image: © sachab