Pitchside Europe

Pass-master Bentaleb could be Tottenham’s next big thing

Our friends at Squawka.com say Tottenham have a real player on their hands in the form of the new pass-master in their midfield...

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Since making his debut in Tottenham Hotspur's 3-2 victory away to Southampton just before Christmas, Nabil Bentaleb looks like he is adapting to the rigours of first-team football and could become a central player for Tim Sherwood's side.

In Spurs' hard-fought 2-0 victory over a battling Crystal Palace side, the 19-year-old put in an impressive 90-minute shift, boosting his growing reputation that much more.

He again played in central midfield, partnered with the powerful and dynamic Mousa Dembele in Sherwood's preferred 4-4-2 formation.

Attempting 105 passes, the most of any player in the game, and completing 93% of them, the highest completion rate of any starting player in the game, he was key to helping Spurs dominate possession (62%-38%).

Bentaleb completed 93% of his passes

Bentaleb and the Belgian enjoyed a dominant partnership as far as having the ball is concerned. In fact, both players played the ball to each other 26 times, making those two passing combinations the game's most popular.

Bentaleb's distribution was calm and precise as he helped to keep the ball moving and get attacking moves off the ground, and he often allowed Dembele the freedom to drift across the pitch as well as get forward.

He also took the lead in helping to win the ball back, making two interceptions and attempting a whopping 11 tackles - all at the edge of his own half.

He only won four of them, however, as Palace broke through the midfield and bore down on Spurs' goal on several occasions, only to be thwarted.

Bentaleb proved a threat himself at the opposite end, attempting two decent long-range shots.

The first wasn't taken cleanly by goalkeeper Julian Speroni, and there was a moment of panic as a result, although it brought no meaningful outcome.

The second certainly caused more cause for concern as the curled effort struck Speroni's right-hand post. If he keeps hitting the ball like that, surely an elusive first league goal will come soon.

Sherwood said he was "sure about him" when he handed Bentaleb his debut against the Saints. A few games on, he has more than justified his manager's faith.