Decision to start unwanted Tanguy Ndombele against Arsenal sums up the mess that Spurs have become

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Ndombele was eventually hooked with 20 minutes remaining - GETTY IMAGES
Ndombele was eventually hooked with 20 minutes remaining - GETTY IMAGES

Tottenham Hotspur tried to sell Tanguy Ndombele during the summer. Bayern Munich showed a brief interest, but, ultimately, no club saw the point in taking the risk at the sort of price chairman Daniel Levy wanted.

So why exactly did Spurs head coach Nuno Espirito Santo risk starting with a midfield three at the Emirates that included Ndombele over Oliver Skipp, perhaps the club’s most industrious midfielder this season?

Nuno might still be asking himself the same question come Monday morning and Ndombele’s situation is just one of a number factors in the mess that Tottenham have become.

Sure, there was the odd neat touch and he might not have been the visitors’ worst performer in a hotly-contested field, but Tottenham and Ndombele had given up on one another a few weeks ago and here he was starting one of the club’s biggest games of the season against their North London rivals.

Just as Levy refused to sell or loan Dele Alli last summer, which meant the former England international is trying to get his mojo back after a season of inactivity, Ndombele has been kept on and Spurs are once again paying the price.

Tottenham used to have a team full of players other clubs coveted. Many of the top clubs in Europe would have snapped their hands off for seven or eight of their stars a few years ago, but now, bar Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, they can barely give them away.

Serge Aurier’s contract had to be ripped up to ship him out and Levy decided against cutting his losses on Harry Winks, who wasn’t even among the substitutes at the Emirates.

Ndombele cost Tottenham a club record £53.8million a couple of years ago, but he is not even worth half of that now and the more he plays, the more his value drops.

Once a record signing, Spurs are paying the price for keeping Ndombele at the club - GETTY IMAGES
Once a record signing, Spurs are paying the price for keeping Ndombele at the club - GETTY IMAGES

How can a player go from being deemed surplus to requirements less than a month ago in the final days of the transfer window to starting over Skipp, a player who prospective managers had been told must be given a chance after a successful season on loan at Norwich City?

Dele was also preferred over Skipp, at least for the first 45 minutes, but the club had not been trying to find a new home for him last month.

Skipp’s presence from the start may not have altered the result at the Emirates, Tottenham have far too many problems for one player to solve, but he would have at least provided some heart and spirit.

It was Skipp who passed the ball into Kane on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area in the 57th minute and Tottenham justifiably thought they could have been awarded a penalty as the England captain was bundled over.

Skipp helped to prompt an improved second-half performance from the visitors and the yellow card he was awarded for a foul on Thomas Partey showed the kind of fight that had been so badly lacking. But, by then, it was too late and Nuno must accept he simply got his selection and tactics badly wrong.

Ndombele’s reintroduction into the team has been a move of desperation from Nuno and it has not worked. He started his first Premier League game of the season in the 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea and somehow kept his place on Sunday.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg might well have seen it as a form of punishment to be asked to play in a midfield three with Ndombele and Dele either side of him. It was a suicidal decision from Nuno and left the Dane with an impossible job.

Ndombele and Dele could both be seen trotting back into their own penalty area, as Arsenal raced into the lead in the 12th minute and Mikel Arteta must not have been able to believe his luck that Nuno did not immediately make a change, at least tactically.

The pair were nowhere near making up the ground to try to stop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubling Arsenal’s lead and it was Kane, rather than Ndombele or Dele, who attempted a last-ditch tackle on Bukayo Saka inside the Tottenham penalty area before the youngster netted.

The most predictable moment of the match came with 20 minutes remaining, when Ndombele was hooked. Maybe Tottenham will give up on him again. Or maybe he will start the next game. That’s precisely the problem.

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