Spurs keeper: Why magic Mousa is the perfect replacement for Modric
Brad Friedel believes that Mousa Dembele’s return will give Tottenham the creative boost they so urgently need, with the American hailing his Belgian team-mate as the perfect replacement for Luka Modric.
Dembele, a summer signing from Fulham, made an immediate impression at White Hart Lane, scoring off the bench on his debut against Norwich and then starring in the back-to-back Premier League victories over Reading, QPR, Manchester United and Aston Villa.
But the 25-year-old has missed the last eight games in all competitions, and Spurs’ form has declined so much that they have lost their last three league games without him.
Dembele has flown out to Rome as part of the Tottenham squad, and, although he is unlikely to start, he could make his comeback off the bench, or in Sunday’s derby with West Ham – and Friedel says his return will make a big difference.
“We have had some injuries and personnel changes to some exciting flair players,” said the goalkeeper. “It would be nice to have Mousa back – what a tremendous talent he is.
“We don’t have Luka [Modric] and Rafa [van der Vaart] so Mousa would be the replacement in that mould of a player, and he is an outstanding player.
“Luka went and we’ve got a replacement in Dembele. It’s one outstanding player going out and one outstanding player coming in.
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“If you look at the goal tallies from both players they’re about comparable over the past four or five years – they score about the same number of goals. “They’re both great passers, they both have good vision and great engines. Once Mousa’s fit again then you see another surge in flair.
“Also, I don’t know too many defenders in the league that are better than Younes Kaboul, and then there’s Benoit [Assou-Ekotto] at left-back – I’ve seen him play some unbelievable football, and it’s a shame that they’ve been injured this season.”
At 41 years old, Friedel finds himself in the unusual position of playing under a younger manager in Andre Villas-Boas, who is six years his junior.
However, Spurs’ eldest statesman says he fully respects his boss – and he is hoping that Tottenham’s head coach gets the time he needs in N17.
“He’s a younger person in terms of years, but he’s far more experienced as a manager than I am,” said Friedel. “I have zero years of management experience.
“The age has never crept up between us. You can hear all the stories you want about his last job but you can only take people as you see them.
“He has an open-door policy. You can knock on his door any time about pretty much anything that you want to. His training sessions are very good and I just hope that all the Tottenham fans give him a proper chance.
“He’s going to have his own ideas and his news ideas, and it’s his first season here. I’d like everyone to let him work through everything, because I think he has a lot of good qualities as a manager.”
Friedel was on the bench for the 5-2 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday but the veteran goalkeeper is closing in on his 450th Premier League appearance, and he feels he has learned some valuable lessons along the way.
“The difference between experienced goalkeepers and younger goalkeepers a lot of times isn’t about the actual saves, it’s more about how you react to mistakes,” he reflected.
“In my opinion, I think it’s a lot easier to overcome those mistakes when you’re older. You’ll know the reasons why it happened, you’ll be able to deal with it and you’ll be able to deal with the press and the fans.
“When you’re younger and a fan comes straight up to your face you don’t know how you’re going to act. It might be the first time in your career because from a young age you’ve probably been told how good you are, and then bang, somebody’s all over you.
“It’s important to rebound, even in the same game, because you can’t let a mistake cost you two or three or four. You have to put it in the bin and move on – you can analyse it later. For me that was much more difficult to deal with at a younger age.”
Friedel is in the final year of his contract with Tottenham and, while he is intent on finishing in the top four, he admits he may not be at Spurs to enjoy the Champions League adventure if the team are successful.
“That wouldn’t affect my decision in any way,” he said. “It’s probably not my decision anyway, it’s the club’s decision. But, as far as if I want to play on, it will be a purely mental and physical scenario for me.
“If I knew I was completely knackered and April came around and then we qualified for the Champions League, I would not sign on to play. But that’s so far into the future for me. It’s a month to month scenario and towards the end of the season I’ll decide how my body is.
“You have to also take into account ‘is there someone that wants you?’ Hopefully it would still be here but you’d also have to think that the club have made an investment in someone as good as Hugo [Lloris], so what would the role be?
“But as I said in the summer, I’m open to any role. I feel very fortunate at 41 to be contracted to such a great cub.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs