The Danish midfielder joins from Southampton, and in the eyes of many, he is the defensive midfielder the club have been crying out for. But with that in mind just where will Hojbjerg fit into this Tottenham side?
Jose Mourinho has tried a variety of formations during his brief time as Spurs manager including a back three, a back four, and even a back five. Towards the latter part of last season, Mourinho appeared to oscillate between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 formation.
In the former instance, Hojbjerg will form part of the midfield two, sitting in a deeper role and looking to win possession back for the team before quickly moving it up the field to the attackers. To a certain extent, it will mirror the role he played at Southampton, although Ralph Hasenhuttl implemented a 4-4-2 with the Saints.
When it comes to Mourinho’s use of a 4-3-3 formation, it changes somewhat compared to how we traditionally think of that setup. Often we associate a 4-3-3 with a number six at the base of midfield – think Sergio Busquets at Barcelona as an example.
Mourinho prefers to invert this, with two deeper midfielders sat behind a more creative and attack-minded player – in this case Giovani Lo Celso. The role involves a similar set of tasks. When it comes to being in possession, the midfielder aims to take the ball from deep and move it forward. This requires them to be press-resistant, and the fact Eric Dier lacks this trait is part of the reason he has moved into central defence under Mourinho.
Both systems also require the midfielder, in this case Hojbjerg, to have a good range of passing as Mourinho prefers more direct transitions, be it by luring opponents towards them and creating space in the middle or by creating overloads out wide.
In the absence of Harry, Kane Spurs have also tried to create space in central areas by getting their striker to drop deep and drag a centre-back with him, and in turn, creating space for midfielders to run into.
One of the skills Hojbjerg possesses compared to Dier is an ability to cover ground. Not only can he read danger well, but his ability to meet the opponent and dispossess them is something that Spurs midfield has lacked. Mourinho likes his midfield pairing – be it in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 – to operate in tandem, a bit like windscreen wipers.
The hope is he can also provide greater protection to Spurs when they are defending transitions. Too often last season it was easy to play in behind Spurs’ midfield, and having someone with Hojbjerg’s speed, nose for danger, and positional sense will help solve that issue to a degree.
Perhaps most importantly of all is Hojbjerg’s versatility. He may be Danish, but he’s a Swiss army knife of a footballer. Last season he was listed as playing right-back, left-back, defensive midfield, central midfield and left midfield for Southampton.
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In general play, he is more than comfortable dropping between the centre-backs to make a three. This versatility will be key for Mourinho moving into next season as he tries to build a tactical plan that is robust and able to counter the variety of threats the Premier League poses.
Overall Hojbjerg makes a lot of sense for Tottenham. His blend of defensive skills, passing, and versatility not only help rectify a long-term issue at defensive midfield but also allow Spurs to build out a better system in the long run.