The French outlet FootMercato is reporting that Tottenham Hotspur has submitted a bid of €25m for Nice attacker Alassane Pléa. French Football News has the key details in English. In addition to links with Spurs, Pléa has also been linked with Monaco, Sevilla, Leicester, Valencia, Borussia Monchengladbach and Dortmund in the past month.
It’s not hard to see why: Pléa just completed another fine season for an over-achieving Nice side. He scored 16 goals and tallied five assists in 3045 minutes this season across 35 appearances in Ligue 1. He averaged .49xG+xA/90 minutes and .4xG/90. Those aren’t great numbers, but they’re solid.
That said, his numbers from 2016-17 are even more impressive: In 1853 minutes played across 25 appearances, he had 11 goals, two assists, and a remarkable .85xG+xA/90. To put those numbers in perspective, Radamel Falcao posted .81xG+xA/90 that season and Alexandre Lacazette, who signed for Arsenal for €53m at the end of the season, finished at 1.09xG+xA/90 while playing for a Lyon team that finished behind Pléa’s Nice in the table but had far superior underlying numbers.
There are two other things to like about Pléa: First, he’s a versatile attacker. In the past season, he played 1777 minutes across 20 appearances as a striker at .58xG+xA/90. He also played 1250 minutes across 14 appearances as a left winger, averaging .36xG+xA/90. In 2016-17, he played 3067 minutes as a striker, 1250 minutes as a left winger, and 540 minutes as a right winger. His best numbers have consistently been as a striker, though that may be explainable by playing closer to goal and thus having more of a direct hand in either taking the shot or making the final pass before a shot.
Second, his xGBuildup/90 and xGChain/90 numbers measured across the last four seasons, both of which track his contribution to build-up play in the attack, are comparable to those of Son Heung-Min over the same window: .17xGBuildup and .58xGChain for Pléa compared to .24/90 and .65/90 for Son.
The two main questions with Pléa concern his passing numbers—which are quite low—and his fit in Pochettino’s system. He has spent the past two years playing for newly appointed Dortmund manager Lucien Favre, a quirky Swiss tactician who generally favors a low, narrow block and a swift counter-attacking style. Granit Xhaka, another former Favre player, struggled when moving to the Premier League as Favre’s defensive system masked his defensive weaknesses. Once playing in a more normal set up and asked to do more conventional defensive midfielder things, Xhaka’s problems were exposed in a significant way. It is possible that Pléa will struggle to adapt to a system that routinely uses a much higher defensive line and high press to win back the ball.
That being said, we may need to be realistic here. Pléa is a versatile Ligue 1 attacker with solid xG numbers and decent build-up numbers. He is still only 25 and could be available for less than half of what United is demanding for Anthony Martial. Depending on the exact situation of Tottenham’s budget and what other targets Mauricio Pochettino has identified, Pléa may be the right signing.