There have been times this season that Mousa Dembele has appeared unusually mortal.
A midfield general whose passing skills and movement are uncommonly adept for a footballer who sits as deep as the Belgian international, Dembele looked a different player upon his return from an ankle injury in October.
Months removed from a 30th birthday, that injury, plus a recurring concern in his left foot that merited an operation, prompted rumblings of a decline. How incredibly daft that chatter was.
Days after a commanding performance in a north London derby victory over Arsenal, Dembele was the best player on the pitch Tuesday at Juventus. It would have been easy to concede the result after a Gonzalo Higuain brace had Juventus up a pair after nine minutes, instead, Dembele quarterbacked a midfield that moved the ball from front to back at a breakneck pace.
Great fight by the team 💪🏽 #UCL #COYS pic.twitter.com/qt5iYeV1CE— Mousa Dembélé (@mousadembele) February 13, 2018
Great fight by the team 💪🏽 #UCL #COYS pic.twitter.com/qt5iYeV1CE
— Mousa Dembélé (@mousadembele) February 13, 2018
Christian Eriksen was splendid, Harry Kane was again a force, and Dele Alli was far better than he's been of late, but the talisman was Dembele.
Dembele must have been ecstatic when team sheets were released an hour prior to kick off. Without Blaise Matuidi, Old Lady boss Max Allegri opted for a two-man midfield of Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira, and Dembele outclassed the duo over 90 minutes.
The former Fulham No. 10 did not misplace a pass until the 50th minute against Arsenal, and he was again as clinical against a Juventus side that had conceded just once in its previous 16 matches. His 95 percent pass completion was tops, as was his six successful take-ons and four ball-winning tackles. Dembele's 116 touches also led all players, and were twice as many as anyone on the home side.
As adroit at spraying passes and running beyond markers as he is at recovering possession with a perfectly timed tackle, it's easy to see why Dembele is one of football's rarest talents. And to think, some had thought he'd fallen off.
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