Fulham assist has earned Nkoudou the chance to impress

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Tottenham's forgotten man made the difference at the weekend, and as injuries pile up for Pochettino, should now have a chance to show what he can do

COMMENT   By Solace Chukwu    
 

With the iron in the fire and maximum points on the line, Harry Winks rose highest in the Fulham penalty area on Sunday to head home a late winner. Rapt in the moment at Craven Cottage, it momentarily ceased to matter to Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, whose cross had provided the breakthrough, quite how dire his time with Tottenham had been up until that point.

It has been two-and-a-half years since Spurs paid just under £10 million to Marseille for his services. The preceding summer, the club had taken a punt on the exciting Clinton N'Jie, and had been burnt by the mercurial forward's total inability to get to grips with manager Mauricio Pochettino's demands.

So, in a way, there was some pressure right off the bat for Nkoudou, who effectively replaced his countryman going the other way.

That pressure was exacerbated when the transfer dragged on for 40 days, taking in a renegotiation and subsequently the resignation of the club's erstwhile Head of Recruitment, Paul Mitchell. 

Clinton N'Jie Mauricio Pochettino Tottenham Premier League

Pochettino wanted a different option from wide, an outlet to allow for an expansion of his usual approach, and hoped to find it in Nkoudou. That hope, however, has so far proven unfounded.

Mitchell had worked with Pochettino at Southampton, and while the resignation had little to do with any falling out with the Argentine manager, might there have been an unconscious mental association of Nkoudou with the disappointment that he must have felt at the departure of his former collaborator? 

That is a tempting pop psychology angle to pursue, but in more tangible terms, Nkoudou has without any doubt struggled to fit in at Tottenham.

The 23-year-old has made 25 appearances since joining, at an average of 20 minutes per game, and has scored once and laid on two.

HD NKoudou

It was not much better on loan at Burnley last season either: there, he only made eight appearances, and barely registered in a meaningful way.

The numbers are sobering, and the impact has been negligible.

That certainly changed on Sunday with his match-winning contribution, displaying calm in the very throes of the game to pick out a quality delivery. Naturally, one might look at that moment as a turning point, a route back into the good graces of a manager who has admitted that Nkoudou has not always grasped opportunity when it has been presented.

Tottenham's recent spate of injuries in forward positions offers him precisely that: opportunity.

Dele Alli is the latest casualty, joining Harry Kane and the Heung-Min Son (away on international duty) as notable absences, while Lucas Moura is only just on the recovery trail.Georges-Kevin Nkoudou Tottenham

Starting with the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Thursday, Nkoudou will get more opportunities to shine, and it is perhaps the returning Moura who provides him the perfect template in terms of how to seize the moment.

The Brazilian, Tottenham's third winger punt from Ligue 1 in three years, finally proved to be the charm, and has offered fearless, direct running, allied to goal threat from intelligent drifts into the centre.

As Kane struggled to imbue Spurs with his usual vigour following a deep World Cup run, it was Moura who stepped up to the plate, scoring important goals earlier in the season against Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

Now, with Kane (and Alli) out and Son away, it is the season of second chances at Enfield.

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For striker Fernando Llorente, Sunday was a day to forget, as he hit the back of the net at the wrong end altogether.

For Nkoudou, it was perhaps the day to kickstart his rebirth. If he seizes the moment, to quote a Wengerism, he would be "like a new signing". 

 

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