LONDON, United Kingdom, Dec 28- Harambee Stars and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama is excited ahead of his first ever return to the St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton following his Sh1.4bn move from the English South Coast to the Capital over the summer.
Wanyama who has started in all 17 Spurs matches this season has been a cog in the North London side, being the spine of the midfield under his former coach at Saints Mauricio Pochettino.
he is expected to play the same role on Wednesday evening when Spurs take on the Saints at St. Mary’s.
He tweeted; I am really excited to return to St. Mary’s. Had a great 3 years at the club and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again.”
To appreciate Wanyama’s impact at Tottenham, you only need to look at Eric Dier.
The England international started all but one of their Premier League games after seamlessly swapping central defence for holding midfield last season, but since Wanyama’s arrival from Southampton, his place in Mauricio Pochettino’s team is no longer secure.
Dier has, of course, been required to provide cover in defence, but he was out of the team altogether before Toby Alderweireld was struck down by a knee injury in October, with Wanyama already established as the first-choice holder.
Last week, Pochettino was even asked to respond to speculation linking Dier with a move away from the club.
The Spurs boss emphatically rejected those claims, but it’s an interesting change of dynamic nonetheless.
Wanyama was signed to add depth to Tottenham’s squad. There was little expectation that he would go on to start 23 of their first 25 games.
In the Premier League, only Jan Vertonghen has played more minutes for Spurs.
Having left Southampton as a key player, Wanyama returns to St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday with similar status at Spurs.
It has not been a straight-forward start to the season for Pochettino’s side, but only Chelsea have conceded fewer Premier League goals, and Wanyama has contributed more interceptions and more ball recoveries than any other player.
The Kenyan has added considerable power to Spurs’ midfield, and there have been goals, too.
He scored their third in their 3-0 win over Hull City earlier this month, and he introduced himself to the White Hart Lane crowd with a late winner against Crystal Palace in the opening home game of the campaign back in August.
“It feels like I have been at the club for years,” Wanyama said afterwards.
Pochettino added: “It is important for the new players to feel the love from the supporters. We know Victor very well. He is a great guy, a great player, and it was good for him to score to help the team.”
A glaring miss in Spurs’ 1-0 defeat to Manchester United was a reminder that he is not a natural in front of goal, but Pochettino hasn’t had to think twice about placing his trust in Wanyama.
It was the Argentine who took him from Celtic to Southampton in 2013, after all, and the strong relationship they formed on the south coast made the move to Spurs an easy decision for Wanyama.
“He played a big part in convincing me to join the club,” he told FourFourTwo.
“I had a few options but he was able to convince me to come here because I had worked with him before and know he is a manager who will improve players. Pochettino is a really good person outside football as well as in football. He’s like a father figure, always speaking with everyone and giving them advice.”
The admiration is mutual, but it’s not yet universal.
Some Tottenham supporters have questioned the wisdom behind breaking up the Dier-Dembele midfield axis that proved so successful last season.
Wanyama is not quite as technically accomplished as Dier, and his passing is not always as quick and incisive.
It can slow Spurs down on occasions, but the differences are subtle. In fact, the stats show Wanyama rarely wastes a pass. His success rate of 87.8 per cent is only bettered by Mousa Dembele and Harry Winks at Spurs, and it also compares favourably to Dier’s 83.3 per cent success rate last season.
He may not be quite as adventurous – he certainly makes fewer long passes – but his distribution is generally reliable.
The reliability is a large part of the reason why he has become so important to Pochettino again.
Wanyama’s work tends to go unnoticed, but Spurs remain one of the Premier League’s strongest defensive units and the Kenyan has been a key part of that.
Pochettino has plenty of options with Alderweireld expected to be fit on Wednesday night, but there is little evidence to suggest Wanyama will be the fall guy.
He returns to his old stomping ground as a prominent part of Pochettino’s plans.
-By Sky Sports-