Tottenham Hotspur need a right back. This much is patently obvious. As good as Serge Aurier can be — and take out the ridiculous boneheaded errors he can be a very good one at times — it’s pretty clear that Jose Mourinho is looking for another option to either compete with or replace him in Spurs’ starting 11.
Because of that, expect Tottenham to be linked with every right back with a pulse who may conceivably be available for sale. One of those fullbacks is Lille’s 23-year old Turkish starter Zeki Çelik, and according to the Telegraph, Spurs are considering funding an approach for Çelik by offloading Serge Aurier.
I’ll confess I don’t watch a tone of French football in general, and Lille in particular, so the bulk of what I know of Çelik is down to highlight videos, publicly-available statistics, and the words of others. And from what I’m seeing, it’s left me a little confused as to why Spurs might be especially interested in bringing Çelik in.
From what I can tell, Çelik is a perfectly cromulent defender, able to put a decent tackle in and showing some pretty good defensive positioning from the obviously favorably-edited highlights videos on YouTube. But according to his stats, while his crossing looks pretty good Çelik doesn’t seem like he gets forward that often, and he rarely takes players on to push the ball up. His radar shows a good ability to get balls into the attacking third, but I wonder if that has more to do with his tendency to fire long balls from deeper positions than his ability to beat people on the dribble.
In fact, in as much as you can trust radars to judge the efficacy of footballers — and the jury’s still very much out on that one — Serge’s numbers sure do look more impressive as an attacking fullback (although FootballSlices is notably missing a “Dumbass Errors” wedge). Çelik actually looks a lot closer to Ben Davies than to Serge.
There are a couple of possibilities here as to why Spurs might be interested in Çelik. One, he’s young and probably could still improve with time. Two, we know that Spurs assistant coach Joao Sacramento previously worked with Çelik at Lille and we should probably trust that he knows something that we don’t. Three, certain things don’t appear in statistical charts, and it’s possible that Çelik could be a perfectly adequate Mourinho-type fullback who gets the ball high up the pitch and contributes to the attack, we’re just not seeing that in the numbers. Four — and this is reaching a bit here — perhaps Mourinho would be interested in deploying Çelik as a younger, more defensive fullback, and also replacing Davies with a more attack-minded player.
I started this article by saying that I don’t know much about Zeki Çelik, and I’m not going to sit here and say that my opinion should carry any more weight than the Ligue 1 watchers or player analysis geeks. He certainly does appear to have solid tactical skills and a pretty good defensive acumen. But I dunno. When I think about potential Aurier replacements that Spurs have been nominally linked to — Emerson, for example, or Timothy Castagne, or even Max Aarons — Çelik just doesn’t seem to stand out that much at all. The Telegraph says that Lille would ask for £18m. For that price, I’m wondering if there would be better, cheaper options out there.