Sensible Transfers: Tottenham Hotspur
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Sensible Transfers: Tottenham Hotspur


Welcome to Sensible Transfers; a video series
in which we make transfer suggestions that suit the style of the club we’re discussing.
If you’re unfamiliar with the rules or methodology, you can watch our Sensible Transfers Rules
video as linked below. Today’s club is Tottenham Hotspur. Under Jose Mourinho, Spurs have changed tactically.
The shifts haven’t been immense _ Spurs are now generally lining up as a sort of staggered
4-2-3-1, which sees the right back pushing higher than the left back, with a similar
asymmetry up top – the left winger starts from a wider position but drifts in, while
the right winger is much more tucked in to the half space. Spurs are playing more directly now than they
were under Mauricio Pochettino, although this is perhaps also a function of midfield issues.
Mourinho actually has an array of good midfielders with interestingly different profiles: Eric
Dier and Moussa Sissoko are competent ball winning, shielding midfielders of slightly
different types; Harry Winks is a steady circulator of the ball capable of progressive passing;
Giovani Lo Celso and Christian Eriksen are more creative and can work in central midfield
or further up; and Tanguy Ndombele is a press-breaking, ball carrying player. Until Mourinho finds a balance he’s happy
with and all players are available for selection, though, he’s tending to generate transitions
from deeper positions, looking to get the ball forwards to Spurs attacking four, where
Dele Alli can makes runs in ahead of Harry Kane, and the wide players also push infield
to attack. Spurs are a difficult team to scout for. Right
wing looks well stocked with Mourinho-type players in Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela, while
Eriksen can play there too tucked in. The perennial issue of a back-up for Harry Kane,
probably to offer something different, is always a question. Perhaps a versatile forward
who can play left wing, someone like Marcus Thuram or Robin Quaison, is worth considering?
But it’s very unlikely this will happen, and so we’ve looked elsewhere. There are
two clear areas where Spurs should consider investing.
Having bought last summer in midfield, this area really shouldn’t need addressing. However,
it seems like a genuine screening defensive midfielder is still lacking and, according
to The Athletic, Eric Dier sees his future at centre-back, while Victor Wanyama will
be allowed to leave on a free transfer. The stability afforded by a genuinely good defensive
midfielder could allow Mourinho to give the other part of his pivot, presumably Ndombele
in the long-term, more scope to carry the ball and break the press, and his more creative,
but less defensively capable options, such as Lo Celso and Eriksen, can give an interesting
range of options further up the pitch. An inexpensive development option is Copenhagen’s
Jens Dalsgaard Stage. 23 years old and 6ft1, Stage leads the Danish Superliga’s midfielders
for interceptions won adjusted for opposition time in possession, with 9.9. He also makes
8.3 successful defensive duels per 90 and an impressive 5.7 aerial duels per 90, winning
64.5%. Big and strong, he’s adept at preventing play from developing and holding up attackers,
and would work best in a team that is largely playing on the front foot – he’s not the
quickest, although he can generally recover his position well. He’s valued at around
3 million Euro, but would probably more suit a lower level side. He’s worth keeping an
eye on, though. A slightly left-field choice is Lyon’s Lucas
Toussart. Toussart is a player who divides opinions even among Lyon fans, and he does
have issues with concentration. Given Lyon’s persistent issues this season he might want
to leave, although his 20 million Euro valuation would certainly see a higher price required.
But, in the plus column, he’s still only 22, has been playing European football since
2016/17, and formed part of a superb Lyon midfield last season and the one before with
Tanguy Ndombele, now at Spurs. Even in a struggling Lyon team, the 6ft1 defensive midfielder has
put up decent numbers: 10.1 defensive duels per 90 won at a rate of 58.4%, 4.5 aerial
duels won 58.8% of the time, and 6.6 interceptions adjusted for opposition possession. He was
the glue that made Lyon’s midfield tick alongside the ball-carrying of Ndombele and
the creativity of Houssem Aouar and could do the same for Spurs, albeit as a pricey
option. Our pick, though, assuming Spurs don’t want
to break the bank, is João Palhinha. Twenty-four and almost 6ft3, João Palhinha is playing
at Braga on loan from Sporting Clube de Portugal. His 11.7 defensive duels per 90, won at a
rate of 62.3%, is the best in the Portuguese Primeira for midfielders who fit our criteria;
he also makes a very impressive 8.7 aerial duels and wins them at a rate of 63.7%. His
5.3 interceptions per 90, adjusted for opposition possession, place him 12th in the league,
while he’s fourth for tackles attempted. He’s tidy in possession and also makes 4.2
long passes per 90 at an accuracy of 65.9%, while he’s also capable of finding space
to take the ball off the centre backs and playing it forwards along the ground well. Like Stage, he tends to play in the double
pivot of a 4-4-2, so he might need to adjust slightly to the system that Mourinho favours.
But he would add solidity, ball winning, and an aerial presence to Spurs’ midfield at
reasonable value. His on-loan status could also complicate things, but he’s been on
loan for one and a half seasons, so he should be gettable; he’s valued at around 6 million
Euros though would certainly cost more. Competition for Serge Aurier is an area that
most Spurs fans would identify as a need rather than a luxury. Aurier’s attacking numbers
are reasonable, but he’s not convinced in a role that requires attacking output and
defensive solidity. Among Spurs’ areas of concern, right back is probably top of the
list. Patrick Burner of Nice is 10th among Europe’s
top five leagues for progressive passing among right backs we looked at, a list that is topped
by Trent Alexander-Arnold and also includes Joshua Kimmich, Benjamin Pavard, and Dani
Carvajal. And he’s only 19. He’s also 7th for final third passes, 7.8 per 90 at
73.2% accuracy, though he could improve his deep completions, with only 1 deep completed
cross or pass per 90. He’s quick and capable of some excellent forward passing and, while
he’s definitely not the finished article, he could be worth a gamble at this stage and
wouldn’t be a huge outlay. Paolo Ghiglione, a 22 year old Italian at
Genoa, is an even trickier prospect to assess. He’s 6ft2 and defensively solid enough for
a converted winger, but he’s been playing in a Genoa side in freefall. Nonetheless,
he leads the team in assists, with five, and can play anywhere on the right hand side.
His assists per 90 is third of the players we looked at, behind only Alexander-Arnold
and Achraf Hakimi. Those five assists have come from an expected assists of 1.76, which
is probably unsustainable, but his deep completed crosses or passes total of 2.5 per 90 is very
good and he’s fifth in Europe’s top five leagues when only deep completed crosses are
considered. There might be too many question marks but he’s an exciting attacking prospect
at right-back who has been capped by Italy at youth levels. Our pick, though, is Kosovo’s right back
Mergim Vojvoda. He only joined Standard Liege in the summer, which could be a stumbling
block and could delay a transfer until the summer, but that’s fine under Spurs’ current
circumstances. He’s 6ft2, an aggressive defender, skilful and quick in attack, and
manages an xA of 0.13 per 90. More impressively, he achieves a combined deep completed passes
and crosses of 3.45 per 90 and 14.1 progressive passes per 90, comfortably the best overall
passing output of any right back in Belgium’s top tier and considerably better than another
Tifo favourite, Joakim Maehle, who’s been linked with Southampton. Vojvoda has a swagger
when attacking that evidences real confidence and has the kind of technical ability that
Kosovo seems to be producing at the moment. Perhaps not one for January, but Vojvoda should
grace a top level team soon and he’d be a sensible acquisition for Spurs. And here’s what our team would look like.

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