Isaac Hayden v Mousa Dembele: The key battle in Newcastle v Tottenham
By Marc Harrington
Last Updated: 09/08/17 3:07pm
Ahead of Newcastle's Nissan Super Sunday meeting with Tottenham, we assess the central midfield battle between Isaac Hayden and Mousa Dembele. Who will come out on top?
Newcastle and Rafael Benitez return to Premier League action after a one-year absence when they take on Tottenham at St James' Park in the first Nissan Super Sunday of the season.
The Magpies have been slow starters in recent years and they face a tough opening test against a Spurs side aiming to go one better than last season's second-placed Premier League finish.
In last season's successful Sky Bet Championship campaign, Newcastle were accustomed to dominating possession, but success against Spurs will depend on how quickly they can get the ball off a team that averaged over 60 per cent possession last season.
While Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen provide the creative spark for Spurs, Mousa Dembele is arguably their key man in terms of ball retention.
With a passing accuracy of 92 per cent last season, the highest of any player to make 15 or more Premier League appearances, dispossessing the Belgian will certainly be a tough task for Newcastle.
Top Premier League passing accuracies 2016/17 (minimum 15 apps)
|John Stones||Man City||91.7%|
|Yaya Toure||Man City||89.8%|
The man likely to be charged with doing that is Isaac Hayden. The 22-year-old former Arsenal trainee has never played in the Premier League, and Sunday's meeting with Spurs promises to be a tough introduction.
Despite missing over two months with an ankle injury, however, Hayden made 68 tackles and 53 interceptions last season, more than any other Newcastle midfielder.
He also averaged 77 touches of the ball per 90 minutes, the highest of anyone at Newcastle, and made just over two tackles per game, a figure only bettered by Jack Colback.
Midfield partner Jonjo Shelvey may have been named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year, but Hayden's contribution to Newcastle's title success should not be underestimated.
Newcastle's average touches per 90 minutes 2016/17 (minimum 10 apps)
|Player||Touches per 90 mins|
Like Hayden, Dembele is not only a key man for his team in possession, but also out of possession. Only two Spurs players made more tackles than Dembele last season and only Danny Rose averaged more than his 2.8 per 90 minutes.
Sunday is a tough start to Newcastle's season and an equally big test for Hayden, but it will be a chance for him shine against one of the league's best central midfielders.