This week, Montreal Impact have signed Spurs midfielder Victor Wanyama on a DP deal. There is one question hanging over the move: What does the 28-year-old have left?
It is somewhat of a coup, the 28-year-old dropping out of the Premier League entirely to join the MLS side when still in his ‘prime’. But this is not a straightforward home-run transfer. There are plenty of questions surrounding the Kenyan.
Wanyama has been plagued with injuries for the last few seasons. And this season, whilst he’s not been recorded to have been carrying any injuries, he has barely featured for the North London club.
Wanyama’s last appearance for Spurs came in their 3-1 defeat away to Bayern Munich on December 11th in the UEFA Champions League. He played a total of nine minutes. Previous to that, he played the full 120 minutes as Spurs were defeated on penalties by Colchester United in the English League Cup.
His last Premier League appearance (and only one of this 2019/20 campaign) came in a 2-1 defeat away to Leicester City at the end of September, where he played 23 minutes. In the game against Leicester, Wanyama came on with the score at 1-1. He gave the ball away with his first pass of the game which led to City’s second and game-winning goal. The midfielder also picked up a booking shortly after. It was far from a dream return to the top flight of English football, and it also explains his lack of minutes since then.
The 2018/19 Premier League campaign doesn’t look much better. Wanyama featured 13 times for Spurs, starting just four of those games. He did score what’s arguably one of the goals of that season, away to Liverpool in a 2-2 draw, but his limited usage largely came down to his lack of fitness and injury problems.
Whilst the previous two or three years at Tottenham fail to paint Wanyama in a good light, he will always be remembered by the Spurs faithful for the outstanding performances he delivered back in 2016/17 when Tottenham finished as runners-up to Chelsea and went unbeaten at home all season.
Wanyama played alongside Mousa Dembele in Mauricio Pochettino’s dominating midfield pivot which saw teams painfully struggle to keep the ball against them. Opponents were prone to decimating counter-attacks which began with Wanyama or Dembele fiercely winning the ball back and bursting through the middle of the pitch with troubling power and urgency.
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Tottenham have lacked a midfield duo as dominating as the Wanyama-Dembele pairing for the previous two seasons, and while Dembele left Spurs for China last year, his body also feeling the strain of regular football over a long career, Wanyama has simply struggled to find fitness and form in that same time.
Consequently, it is fair to question just how readily available he will be for the Montreal Impact. Whilst the jump in quality between MLS and the Premier League is very much there, especially when it comes to the defensive aspect of the game, Wanyama has looked as close to finished as possible. He has been a shadow of the man that once tore opposing midfields and attacks to shreds, lacking that same awesome blend of power, pace, strength and positional awareness.
After the Montreal Impact’s 2-1 victory at home against the New England Revolution, there were still multiple signs that they would need a confident and experienced defensive midfielder to help support their defence and minimise the risk of dangerous counter-attacks. It is a role that Waynama knows well, of course, but does his body allow him to play it anymore?
This could be the restart that Wanyama needs. Thierry Henry has at his disposal a player with the ability to decide games and lockout even the most attacking of opponents. If Wanyama can find his form and match sharpness again, he will shine in MLS. But the recent history tells a very clear story: that is a very big ‘if’.