Schalke's Nabil Bentaleb has enjoyed a productive attacking season.
Nabil Bentaleb in action for Tottenham Hotspur
Bentaleb, 22, joined Spurs from Dunkerque back in 2012, and was promoted into the first team by then-manager Tim Sherwood in December 2013, making 15 Premier League appearances before Sherwood was shown the door.
Mauricio Pochettino came in as his replacement, and Algerian international Bentaleb initially enjoyed great success under the Argentinian, playing 35 games in all competitions during the 2014/15 season to earn a new contract.
Bentaleb was expected to kick on after his new deal, but instead, he went the other way. The midfielder made just 11 appearances in all competitions last season, and it was no surprise to see him leave the club last summer.
Bundesliga side Schalke snapped him up, initially on loan, but with a view to a permanent deal – which has now been exercised after his superb performances in Germany.
With seven goals and four assists, Bentaleb has enjoyed a stunning return in the final third, posting numbers that will make Spurs wonder just where such figures were during his time at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
Now, Bentaleb has tackled that topic, suggesting that despite enjoying success under Pochettino in a deeper, more combative role, he was actually played out of position at Tottenham.
Bentaleb has told DW that he is relishing playing further forward, whereas he was asked to protect and create from deep under Pochettino – and with such impressive statistics, few could argue that Bentaleb really is better going forward, and was used incorrectly at Spurs.
"Tottenham gave me the opportunity that no one gave me in France so I thank them for that, but in Tottenham I was playing in a more defensive position and I knew I could do something offensively,” said Bentaleb. “In Schalke, they put me more offensively, to create more and be more decisive for the team. That's the thing I couldn't work on in Tottenham. When some people asked me to play more forward, it made me realize that I can do both. I added something to my game. Inside, I knew I could but nobody gave me the chance until I arrived here.”
"When I played as a number six at Tottenham they wanted that reliability in the center of the pitch, to always protect, to create the game but deeper, so I was not in the final third. I was creating from the back and passing the ball through the lines, but not the lines to give an assist. In Schalke, I'm most often in the final third and I'm trying to find those last passes or last two passes, or even try to score. That's the difference,” he added.
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