Which midfielders should Tottenham sign in the summer window?
On June 1st 2019, Tottenham Hotspur played Liverpool FC in the Champions League final, unfortunately losing 2-0 after a first half penalty from Mohammed Salah and a second half finish by Divock Origi. However, if you were to suggest that Spurs would have ended up with a top 4 finish and a shot at winning the Champions League after being the first ever club to not make a signing in a transfer window since the current format came into existence in 2003, it would have been considered a bold prediction to say the least. In fact, it is their last signing, Lucas Moura, who has been instrumental in their run, scoring a hat-trick to come back against Ajax and secure Tottenham’s place in the final.
However, there were times during their last campaign where their lack of squad depth started to affect their performance after a slew of injuries, and this contributed to their poor end to the season. This was evident in their midfield. Therefore, if they do decide to spend big in the summer, this might be the area they choose to focus on. We have identified 3 transfers Spurs could invest in to address this dilemma.
Giovanni Lo Celso
Lo Celso appears to be Tottenham Hotspurs first target of the summer, with BBC Sport reporting that they had submitted a £53 million bid for the player. Lo Celso spent last season on loan from PSG with Real Betis and impressed with his crucial performances, Betis exercised their option to buy the player. Lo Celso was Betis’ topscorer in the league with 9 goals and contributed 4 assists and is probably seen by Tottenham as the perfect successor to Moussa Dembele. Since the Belgian began to suffer from recurrent injuries and then eventually moved to Chinese outfit Guangzhou R&F, Spurs have been missing an elite level ball progresser in their midfield, but they may have found their answer in Lo Celso.
According to Whoscored, across the 2018/19 season Lo Celso contributed to 2.1 tackles and interceptions per game while completing 2 dribbles and 0.8 key passes. Comparing this to Dembele’s 2017/18 season where he contributed 2.5 tackles and interceptions a game, 2.4 dribbles and 0.6 key passes, we can clearly see the similar traits that Tottenham see in the young Argentinian midfielder. Signing Lo Celso will allow Tottenham to quickly turn defence into attack and allow for more effective transitional play. He provides the North London outfit with a different option in midfield to what they currently have with Wanyama, Winks and Dier and therefore would be a fantastic signing.
The midfielder has a £88 million release clause meaning Tottenham may have to bid more in order to get their man, but if they were to secure the signing it would be a quality move.
With the future of Christian Eriksen’s career increasingly in doubt (the Danish midfielder’s contract expires in 2020) Tottenham may have to spend big in the transfer market to find a replacement. Eriksen joined for a bargain fee of £12 million in 2013 and has performed spectacularly for the Lilywhites, most recently scoring 8 goals and registering 12 assists in the 2018/19 Premier League season. His creative output cannot be understated and is an important part of the Tottenham offensive line, therefore it is important they replace him. Enter James Maddison.
When Leicester spent £24 million on the young English midfielder, they probably did not realise they were making the signing of the season. His numbers were impressive in the Championship; he scored 14 goals and provided 8 assists, while completing 2.8 key passes a game and 2.4 dribbles, but it was common belief that his numbers would suffer as he stepped up to a bigger league. However, while his goals and assists dropped to 7 and 7 respectively, Maddison has taken the league by storm this season, he has kept his average of 2.8 key passes a game (0.7 more than Eriksen has at Tottenham) and more importantly, according to Opta Sports, he was the only player to create 100 chances in the Premier League this season.
It would take a large bid to part Leicester with what can now be considered their prized asset, but if he was to move it seems he would almost seamlessly fit into Tottenham’s offence.
The final target that I feel needs to be addressed is that of Tanguy Dembele. The transfer links to the French midfielder are not in short supply, with both Manchester City and Manchester United apparently being interested in the midfielder. But what would he offer Tottenham?
Tanguy Ndombele is a high energy midfielder, who has registered 1 goal and 7 assists for Lyon in Ligue 1 this season. The midfielder you could most compare him to in Tottenham’s midfield is Mousa Sissoko, who seems a completely new player this season, with his pressing ability making him the engine to an otherwise stationary Tottenham midfield. However, Sissoko turns 30 this year and has arguably left it a little too late to enter the form of his life and there is no guarantee that he will continue this form into next season, due to his track record of inconsistency. Tottenham may look to replace him with what looks to be the younger, hungrier model who has a much higher ceiling.
Ndombele registered 2.8 tackles and interceptions per game last season and completed 1.9 dribbles per game, so like Lo Celso he is highly press resistant and would allow Tottenham to quickly counter. With this transfer it appears it will be either/or between Ndombele and Lo Celso as neither would likely want to play second string. Transfermarkt.com values Ndombele at 50 million euros, so if Betis were to push for Tottenham to play Lo Celso’s release clause, he may be the slightly cheaper option. With the purse strings appearing to be tight due to the construction of Tottenham’s new stadium, this may appeal to Levy and the rest of the board.