What a difference a year has made for Tottenham's Nabil Bentaleb

The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder is nowhere near the club's strongest starting XI these days.

Last season Nabil Bentaleb played 35 matches for Tottenham Hotspur, earning himself a new five-year contract in the process.

But just a few months on, the Algerian international is preparing for tonight’s under-21 match against Southampton with his first-team chances few and far between since his return from injury.

The ankle injury that Bentaleb suffered earlier in the campaign has certainly played its part in him slipping down the pecking order at Tottenham.

However, since his return the 21-year-old has played just a single minute of Premier League football in the proceeding 10 matches.

On five of those occasions he has been an unused substitute while he has not even been in the match-day squad the other four times.

The FA Cup has been Bentaleb’s saving grace yet one wonders if the new long-term deal the youngster signed back in July has been a help or a hindrance in terms of his performances.

Last season the midfielder was thrust into the side with little alternative and he did well. But Tottenham are a different beast now and it is not going to get any easier with new additions likely to arrive in the summer.

Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele are all streets ahead of Bentaleb right now while Ryan Mason will also be hoping for more chances after returning from an injury of his own.

Bentaleb’s situation shows how quickly things can change in football, and while some Tottenham fans will argue he is young enough to improve over time, others will have seen his recent performances and suggested that new long-term contract came a little too early.

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