So now that it looks like Spurs are trying to keep Clinton N’Jie while also adding Kevin-George N’Koudou, let’s try to make sense of the signing from Spurs. Initially, it seems bizarre because we already have so many players who can play in that advanced midfield band:
- Erik Lamela
- Dele Alli
- Christian Eriksen
- Heung-Min Son
- Clinton N’Jie
- Josh Onomah
- Nacer Chadli
- Alex Pritchard
- Ryan Mason
Why add another player to the list? Well, let’s start out by assuming both Pritchard and Chadli are likely to leave, which seems reasonable. Then let’s assume that Mason is either off as well or staying in the deeper midfield roles. Suddenly we’re down to six players. Of the lot, two have minimal experience of Premier League football as Clinton was injured much of last season and Onomah is an academy prospect. That leaves us with four trustworthy, creditable players to fill three spots. Keep in mind we’re likely facing a 60 game season this year between the Champions League, English cups, and the Premier League. Suddenly N’Koulou makes a bit more sense.
But there are two other considerations as well:
First, adding N’Koudou may also allow Onomah to drop back into a midfield role, where his industry and dribbling ability may make him a natural backup to Mousa Dembele. We already know that Mauricio Pochettino is happy to shuffle players around, as he has already done with Alli and Eric Dier. Perhaps Onomah’s future is in midfield. If it is, that would sort our midfield problem as our first choice pairing would be Dier and Dembele and our like-for-like backups would be Victor Wanyama and Onomah.
Second, one of the persistent issues with a tactical approach like that of Mauricio Pochettino is that his teams can become very narrow in the attack. Last season Lamela was really the only player who could be counted on to stay consistently wide. This problem with narrowness got especially nasty in games where Lamela or Danny Rose were out, as Lamela’s possible replacements and Ben Davies, Rose’s replacement, do not offer anything like the same kind of width as Lamela or Rose. N’Koudou, however, appears to be a player who stays wider and likes to carry the ball down the wings. This could be a massive outset in as much as it will help space out the Tottenham attack and make it easier for our other attackers to find space.
One other thing to consider: Should Christian Eriksen ever go down, his most natural replacement as a lateral drifter/creator is Lamela. But if Lamela has to slot into the Eriksen role, we need a new player to make sure we retain our width. N’Koudou could be that man.
Basically, I think this is how to think about our attacking midfield options:
Vertical attackers: Alli, Son, Clinton. Lateral drifters/creators: Eriksen, Lamela. Wide attackers: Lamela, N’Koudou
Basically, Lamela and Eriksen are irreplaceable and can be paired with any one of Alli, Son, or Clinton and probably be pretty good as a front three. But if either Eriksen or Lamela goes down or simply needs a rest, N’Koudou is who we are likely to see slot into the XI.
What the N’Koudou signing does, then, is give us more flexibility in the midfield two and the attacking three. It could allow Onomah to move back to midfield and it provides cover in case Eriksen or Lamela is injured for any length of time.
While the signing may have seemed unnecessary at first, the more I look at it, the more I like it. What do you all think?
On to the links:
According to the Mirror (I know), Arsenal had the chance to sign George-Kevin N’Koudou for £1m back when he was at Nantes.
The Set Pieces sat down with Neal Heard who has, literally, written the book on football kits.
Gibraltar club Lincoln Red Imps will be in Glasgow today as they try to preserve their 1-0 lead from the first leg of their Champions League play-off against Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic.
Fresh off winning EURO 2016, Andre Gomes is now set to join Real Madrid in a €50m deal that sends him to the Bernabeu from Valencia.
Kenan Yildiz, who plays for Bayern Munich’s U11 team, has quite the highlight reel.
The Ballad of James Higgins: Chesterfield FC runs contest, gets no response, then makes things way worse: