Dembele discusses return from suspension
16 September 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Mousa Dembele says he’s been training just as hard – if not harder – than the rest of the squad during his spell on the sidelines.
The Belgian international midfielder, a key cog in Mauricio Pochettino’s well-oiled machine last season, has just served a six-match domestic ban stretching back to the end of last term following a clash with Chelsea’s Diego Costa on May 2.
He missed the last two matches of 2015-16 and the first four of this campaign as a result but made a triumphant return as a half-time substitute to a chorus of 85,000 supporters singing his name during Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with Monaco.
A real fans’ favourite, Mousa was thrilled with the reception he received at the national stadium and, ahead of Sunday’s return to Premier League action against Sunderland at White Hart Lane, he insists there’ll be no signs of rust as far as he’s concerned with battles to be contested on a number of fronts in the coming weeks.
“It’s been a few months where I haven’t played for Tottenham so I’m delighted to be back,” said the 29-year-old. “I’ve trained hard here but of course it’s never the same, you want to play games, you want to be involved so it’s not easy but I’m happy now and against Monaco I was happy that the fans really supported me and sung my name.
“That was amazing for me. I was very surprised, the whole stadium singing my name like that. I’ve never had it like that before. Last year as well, the fans sung my name a lot and I’m very proud of that and very happy.
“I’ve watched a lot games in the last few months and, of course, I’ve been doing a lot of training, more than normal I think, but it’s been good for me to make a similar kind of effort to what people do in a game.
“It’s just been like normal with my team-mates in training and at home as well with my family. For me it was okay, I’m very happy I’m back and we’ll work hard together now.”
With his ban only applying to domestic football, Mousa was able to get in a small amount of game time for his country over the summer. He started Belgium’s 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016 but was forced off with an injury and didn’t feature for the rest of the tournament.
He was back on Red Devils duty during the recent international break, though, with a 45-minute stint in a 2-0 defeat to Spain – a timely run-out as he counted down the days to his return to action in our colours.
“In five months, I think I’ve had two times 45 minutes so I haven’t had a lot of games but here at the Club I’ve made sure that I’ve trained very hard,” he said.
“Mentally as well, I feel ready and I am focused to be important for the team. I think we’ve started well in the Premier League. The (Stoke) game is the most fresh in my mind, that was amazing with the way we played and I think it can only become better.
“Of course, the other teams have strengthened but I think, for us, we are better than last year. The mentality is right, we’ve added quality to the group and that can only be positive. We just need to be focused.”
Among the recent loan arrivals at this weekend’s opponents are two of Mousa’s international team-mates, defender Jason Denayer and attacking midfielder Adnan Januzaj from the two Manchester clubs – City and United respectively.
The former Fulham workhorse says he hasn’t yet spoken to either player about Sunday’s meeting, but nevertheless he expects them to pose a threat for David Moyes’ men.
“I haven’t had any conversations with them but I know they are very good players,” he added. “Adnan can make the difference, Jason is a very good defender as well – they are young men but of course we want to win all our games and we have to win it this weekend.
“It was a disappointing night for us against Monaco. Everything was set up to be right and to win the game, but I think mentally we are strong enough to win this game on Sunday, to not feel pressure and just do our job. We have to win it and we have full confidence for that.”
Finally, does Mousa feel like he’s learned anything following his suspension?
“Yes, of course. You want to react in a different way next time, you need to keep your temper and just do the right things. It’s football, there are emotions involved but it’s something that’s behind me now and I don’t want to concentrate too much on that.”