Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing the Tottenham Hotspur first team players after the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. Up next: winger/wing back Georges-Kévin N’Koudou.
Appearances: 17 (8 EPL, 3 FA, 2 EFL Cup, 3 UCL, 1 EL)
What went right?
Nothing feels like a really harsh critique, but it also feels like the most accurate. If you’re going to pick one thing that went right, it’s that N’Koudou continues to be excellent on social media.
I firmly believe that N’koudou’s first season at Spurs was hamstrung by how drawn out his transfer was. It took 40 days from his initial medical with Spurs to complete his signing. By the time went through, GKNK hadn’t had a pre-season with either Spurs or Marseilles and had been, for more than a month, living out of a London hotel while he awaited permission to train with Tottenham. N’Koudou himself even joked about how the long delay affected him.
#NkoudouSigns but I'm 40 years old now so Im not sure to be as quick as I used to be— GK NKoudou (@gknkoudou) August 31, 2016
At his best, which seemed to happen for only short bursts, N’Koudou would come on and run at people, dribble past them, and then attempt an aimless cross. He tracked back on defense and, at the very least, looked like he was capable of doing all the work Pochettino requires of his wide attacking midfielders.
Also, for the time being, we can continue to dream about N’Koudou playing left or right wing back for Spurs.
What went wrong?
In keeping with what I said above, mostly everything. N’Koudou played in 17 matches but started only twice (in the EFL Cup loss to Liverpool and the FA Cup win over Wycombe, in which he was subbed off at halftime). In total, N’Koudou played 323 of first team football, a significant reduction from the more than 3000 he played at OM the prior year.
Most would have expected a player that thrived at Marseilles under Marcelo Bielsa to fit right into Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino’s team, but that just wasn’t the case. Pochettino himself stated that it was unfair to judge N’Koudou just yet as the youngster needed more time to adjust to not only Tottenham’s style, but also the culture of living in a new country.
When he did play, N’Koudou was primarily a late game substitute given the task of coming on and running at tired fullbacks. It’s probably exactly the right role for him, but even some of his bigger supporters (e.g. me) would say he should have provided a bit more spark than he actually did.
Still, it seems telling that even Moussa Sissoko was preferred to N’Koudou as the late-game impact sub.
I don’t know, honestly. Rumors abound that Pochettino never wanted N’Koudou and that he’s one of the many fringe players on Spurs that are on their way out. That’s certainly plausible as it doesn’t appear as though N’Koudou has much of a place at Spurs, particularly if Pochettino continues to use a 4-2-3-1.
Another possible complication for N’Koudou is Erik Lamela. The Argentine was injured much of the year last year and his return to full health could mean even more limited minutes for N’Koudou.
N’Koudou is a pacey, dribbling winger who has the potential to be a game-changer late in matches. It was immensely frustrating to watch Moussa Sissoko come on in matches when those minutes probably would have been better spent on N’Koudou. Perhaps with the departure of Sissoko and the continued questionable health of Lamela, N’Koudou can take up the role of impact sub, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
A transfer back to France or to a lower to mid-table Premier League team might be the likely next step for GKNK.