We at Cartilage Free Captain do transfer rumors often, and we do them well. But sometimes it’s worth doing a deeper dive into Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer targets, so we’re bringing back a series from a couple of years ago — Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist. These are players that Spurs have either been linked to in the transfer window, or sometimes who they should be linked to as the club tries to improve to challenge for a Premier League title.
Up next: 16-goal Bournemouth striker Josh King.
Name: Josh King
League: Premier League
Primary position: Striker
Can also play: Left/Right Attacking Midfielder
Josh King had a very nice season for Bournemouth last year, and he should be commended for it. A product of Manchester United’s academy, he was sent out on a number of loans as a young player before finally being sold to Blackburn Rovers in 2013. He wasn’t exactly a hit with Rovers, scoring seven goals in two seasons, despite a good amount of playing time. He let his contract expire and moved to Bournemouth in 2015 on a Bosman, and was probably the biggest beneficiary of the two major injuries to Callum Wilson.
Under Eddie Howe, King played mostly in the hole as a deep lying support striker behind Benik Afobe, a position that suited him well. He scored 16 goals for the Cherries last season, by far his highest tally as a professional footballer, and it’s earned him some attention from bigger clubs, including (if rumors are to be believed) Tottenham. He’s also a full Norwegian international, with 28 caps and seven goals.
King’s main attributes are his pace and his dribbling ability — he’s a pacy player who loves to make late runs into the box and who benefits from a strike partner, in this case Benik Afobe. He’s a very direct player and isn’t afraid to go straight at defenders, and has the technical ability to get past them, but he also is quite positionally aware and tries to make himself available in the box to either receive passes or capitalize on opportunities. A number of his goals last season were him being in the right place at the right time to fire in a rebound or a last-minute pass into the box.
Here are all 16 of his goals in 2016-17.
A lot of the newspapers have linked Tottenham with King. Former Spurs player Micky Hazard has said that he’d be an excellent addition to Spurs’ squad (though he also thinks the same of Ross Barkley, which — sorry Micky — isn’t a point in his favor). Even Tactics Tim Sherwood has gotten in on the speculation, which, again, may be damning him with praise:
"I think they need a centre-forward, but it is really important they get the right one.
"They can't buy one who expects to be first choice because Harry wil obviously be first choice. For me, it would be the one at Bournemouth. I think Josh King has got loads to offer.
"He runs in behind, he holds it up, he is strong, he is still developing and he would be a perfect player for the Tottenham squad. And he would get plenty of games - they are in the Champions League this year as well."
Josh has noted the speculation and has said that he is “intrigued” by the links to Spurs.
King is not going to start ahead of Harry Kane in Tottenham’s first team, but that’s not why you sign him — you sign him because Harry Kane can’t play every match, and Spurs need to maximize opportunities when he’s rotated or injured. King would probably be a decent reserve striker for a top Premier League, but he’d also do well — probably better, actually — at a bigger, perennial midtable club like West Brom, Stoke City, or Southampton where he could be the primary attacking outlet. It probably depends on what he wants, and wages.
However, King is also coming off of his best ever season as a professional footballer, and it remains to be seen whether his output this year is an outlier or a sign that he’s made the leap to the next level. Also, King has mostly flourished in the hole a deep lying support striker, something that Spurs don’t really use. If he’s Harry Kane’s primary backup, he’s going to be expected to lead the line, and he’s mostly been a player who has relied on guile and awareness to get his goals. His finishing has been good, but finishing is notoriously fickle, and his StatsBomb radar doesn’t exactly scream “sign this guy now.”
Joshua King, Bournemouth 15-16 vs 16-17. Huge gap in output on xG vs G. Truth is perhaps somewhere in the middle. pic.twitter.com/cRlZkZjNGF— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) April 20, 2017
In fact, if I’m Daniel Levy, I’d be expressly concerned about King’s excellent finishing in 2016-17. King easily out performed his expected goals this past season, which was great for Bournemouth, but suggests that he’s due to regress a little to the mean next season. Add in a switch to a better team in a different tactical setup, a reduced role, and a slightly different position, and that’s a little worrisome. Banking on a star player to recreate his best ever offensive output the following season can be dangerous. (Unless that player’s name is Harry Kane, in which case, shut up)
Signing Josh King would also presuppose that Spurs are ready to cut bait on Vincent Janssen, and despite his struggles last season I’m not yet convinced that this is going to happen. Josh King to Tottenham would have to be weighed against the possibility that Janssen makes the leap after a transitional season to the Premier League.
Likely price: Around £15m
Chances that the valuation is wrong: Transfer fees are kind of nuts right now, but £15m is the new £7m, so it feels like a pretty fair price. He’s reportedly on stupid low wages — probably between £10k-15k/week, so the issue is more the fee than the personal terms.
Team’s willingness to sell: The ascendency of King has been good for Bournemouth considering that their primary striker, Callum Wilson, has had two serious injuries the past two years. Bournemouth still have Wilson and Afobe, as well as Max Gradel and now Jermain Defoe. They’re probably willing to let King go for a good price.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Decent, but not a perfect fit. King holds the ball up well but it’s not clear whether he’s a direct Kane replacement, and whether he can recreate his goal scoring at Spurs in more limited opportunities. He seems to thrive being the guy-behind-the-guy, and he’ll need to be the man as a reserve striker at Tottenham.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Who knows! A lot of it depends on what Spurs want to do with Janssen, and the jury’s still out on that. There haven’t been any rumbles about Pochettino showing Vincent the door, but the players are all on vacation anyway.
Grade if this transfer goes through: B-. Despite his good season, I’m not sold on Josh King. If we truly are looking for a new reserve striker with Premier League experience then I’m not sure we can do much better, but that’s still a big “if.” King’s good season has come at a different position than where he’d be asked to play at Spurs, and it’s not clear whether his skills can translate to leading the line. Spurs have other, more important priorities right now than secondary striker.