Dembele hasn’t considered leaving Spurs as he focuses on his new role
Mousa Dembele says he has not considered leaving Tottenham and is focused on making the most of his opportunity in his new role on the right flank.
The Belgium international has been a frustrating figure for much of his time at Spurs, failing to make the most of his strength and skill in a deep-lying midfield role or in a spell behind the striker last season.
Indeed, the enigmatic Dembele fell out of favour for the final three months of last season, starting only one of the last 12 league games – on the final day at Everton.
That prompted speculation that the 28-year-old might be part of the cull of this summer’s unwanted players.
But Mauricio Pochettino has expressed his determination to find the best role for the midfielder, and has played him in a new position on the right side in the opening two games of the campaign. Dembele is now keen to put last season behind him and embrace his new role.
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“Everybody speculated about [my future] because in the past I played quite a lot and then last year I didn’t play as much, so people are going to speculate - that’s the job of the press,” he said.
“But I never thought about leaving to be honest, even last year when it wasn’t perfect. I want to fight for my place and I want to be important for this club because I like to be here.
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“I did a full pre-season, I’m happy about that. I’m happy that now the manager has given me confidence – I don’t know why now yes and last year no. But I’m not a player who tries to think a lot, to tire myself out.
“It’s a new position for me. I try to think a lot about what I can do better. I think in an attacking role I can be more dangerous and get more shots off. I’ve started thinking about that a lot and if the manager gives me a chance to play a lot in this position I will try to do better and better and be more dangerous in an attacking way.
“In the past, at Alkmaar in Holland, I played on the right wing as well, and I did the same role as here. It’s not really a wing position, you’re coming inside so it’s more of a right midfielder, so I like this position as well.”
While Dembele appears to have leapfrogged both Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend in the pecking order for the role on the right-hand side, he could now face another rival in the shape of Clinton Njie.
The 21-year-old Cameroon international, who has arrived from Lyon for £12million, can play on either wing and is much quicker than Dembele. But the Belgian is unconcerned and has welcomed the signing.
“I heard some positive things, from Hugo as well, having been at Lyon,” said Dembele. “It’s a positive thing for the club. If you want to be up there you need to have good competition between players and to have a good level with everyone. It’s important.
“Whether it’s my rival or anyone else’s, it’s good to be sharp every week. I believe in myself and everybody needs to do that in this team, and then we will have a good season.”
While Dembele is yet to deliver a consistent end product, he made a strong contribution without the ball in Saturday’s game against Stoke, winning possession for his side on a number of occasions – particularly in the first half as Spurs pressed effectively and took a 2-0 lead into the break.
“We train a lot on that [pressing game] so it’s a good thing and I think the team is behind it,” he said. “You can do that but if the team isn’t behind it [then it doesn’t work]. But everybody wants to run, we had a good pre-season and I think it’s better like this.”
Ultimately, though, Tottenham threw away their advantage against Stoke by conceding two goals in the last 12 minutes of normal time to end up with a 2-2 draw.
“It was very disappointing to be honest,” said Dembele. “We started very well as a team but in the second half we didn’t press as much, we didn’t play as confidently as the first half.
“The result we had in the first half was very good and we had to take confidence from that and maybe be more arrogant, to say ‘ok we need to kill this game’. They did everything to press us and they succeeded.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs