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Dembele ready to lift Spurs higher

Sunday, 3 February 2013 - 5:20pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Midfielder tells Jason Burt Chelsea can be caught with help from new signing Holtby.

In the hurly-burly and high stakes world of the Premier League Mousa Dembele is sure of one thing: there is no stress.

"Is there stress? I think that most players enjoy playing football but, like in everything, there are good moments and bad moments," the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder explains. "But everyone I know who plays football enjoys it."

Not that Dembele always watches it. The 25-year-old Belgian admits his interests lie in going to West End musicals - Jersey Boys is his favourite - or the movies rather than sitting at home glued to the television watching matches. It is why Dembele concedes that he knew very little of Spurs' new signing, Lewis Holtby, on his arrival from the German Bundesliga club Schalke.

"I don't know a lot about football," Dembele says. "I don't watch too much football at home so I only watch the English competitions, to be honest. I knew him by name but didn't know him very well as a player, but a lot of people told me he's very good and I see this now."

Holtby, a German international, cost Spurs just pounds 1.5?million - a tenth of the fee they paid Fulham to acquire Dembele last summer - because his contract was close to expiring and he has already made a difference: helping salvage a point when he was introduced as a substitute in the midweek match away to Norwich City.

"He's an all-rounder who works very hard," Dembele says of the 22-year-old midfielder.

"He's good on the ball and he likes to play the long passes. He has a bit of everything and I like this."

He also adds to the competition in the team. "It sets the level high and you see in all the top teams when you have a lot of players in competition for each position that everyone has to sharpen up," Dembele says.

Despite his promising debut it is unlikely that Holtby will start today's (Sunday) game away to West Bromwich Albion - given he has just arrived at Spurs - with Dembele providing the creative spark from central midfield.

It is a position in which he has thrived since being moved there by Fulham manager Martin Jol with the Belgium international having previously been mainly used as a striker or out wide.

"I was happy because I was struggling," admits Dembele, who has still scored just six times in the Premier League since arriving in England from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar for pounds 5?million back in August 2010.

"For many years people were saying 'this is your position', or 'this is your position' and this was the first time that I was able to say 'OK this is my position' because I can defend and attack. I don't like to stand there and wait until the ball comes to my feet. I like to take the ball and run with it."

At the Hawthorns Dembele and Jan Vertonghen will come up against fellow Belgian, Romelu Lukaku, who is on loan from Chelsea. Dembele has known the 19-year-old striker since he was a small boy ("he was already a big lad", he says) as they both lived in Antwerp and Lukaku was his best friend's cousin.

After struggling at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku has thrived at West Brom. "I'm not surprised he is doing so well because when he went to Chelsea it's not that easy as a young guy," Dembele says. "But everyone in Belgium knows what he is capable of doing. I've seen a few games of him this season and he is an unbelievably good player, strong, he is proving this to everyone. I don't doubt he has the quality to play for Chelsea."

But do Spurs have the quality to not just finish in the top four but overtake Chelsea for third place? "If you see the players and the team we have then I'm not scared of any team," Dembele says. "OK, sometimes we have lost games we should not have lost but we have also had some unbelievable games as well like Man U away."

Indeed, Spurs have taken four points from the league leaders but need to achieve a result today with clubs closing in around them. The challenge to do so - and play in the Champions League - is why Dembele joined Spurs.

"I have a lot of confidence," he adds. "I've always thought that if I worked hard enough then my chance would come and I was not scared to not succeed."

 




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