Following up on my article published last Thursday, today’s article is about identifying lower-league talents within the English Football League (EFL) that Tottenham Hotspur should have interest in. As we all know, Spurs struck gold with Dele Alli, but the latest talents they have brought in from the EFL in Joe Rodon and Ryan Sessegnon are at present a little more mixed, despite Sessegnon starting to feature more in recent weeks.
There are many benefits to looking to EFL for its top talents. For starters, the price tags are simply not going to be as outlandish in comparison to what Spurs have been paying in recent transfer windows — Spurs have shelled out large sums of money for players coming from the Premier League and from top leagues on the continent. While Matt Doherty has improved in recent months, he has still shown that he was not worth the £15m Spurs paid for him in 2020. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but it may have provided better value for Spurs to spend that £15m on two younger, cheaper EFL talents. I get that José Mourinho was a driving force behind that deal, but it highlights the poor squad-building Spurs have done in recent seasons by failing to invest in players with potential and instead focusing on filling gaps to appease whichever manager is in charge. As Spurs look for a bit more stability, the EFL would help in this endeavor.
Additionally, Spurs could utilize the EFL a bit better in terms of using it as a loan feeder system for other clubs down the pyramid — for example, Oliver Skipp, who blossomed at Norwich City and guided them to promotion to the Premier League. Spurs could gain a significant advantage by more frequently utilizing the various professional leagues within England to invest in EFL talents and provide them with sufficient game time and needed development.
Now, one thing I want to mention after reading some of the comments from the prior article is that this should not be Spurs’ primary method of squad development. Of course, with Antonio Conte in charge, Spurs should be looking at talents that would immediately bolster the squad. Players such as Pau Torres, Franck Kessié and even Lautaro Martínez should definitely be considered if Conte wants those players (and they want to come). However, it would be wise for the club to look to purchase and develop EFL players in addition to bringing in experienced, proven-ready players. Utilizing the EFL in a bit more optimal way provides for more thinking and focus of the long-term. As Fabio Paratici continues to overhaul the club’s scouting network, improvement in this area could easily be on the horizon.
So, let’s talk about 10 prospects that have been making waves amongst England’s footballing pyramid.
Brennan Johnson, Nottingham Forest
After starring last season on loan at Lincoln City (shoutout to TJ Eyoma), Johnson (20) has returned for Steve Cooper and Forest and has been a standout for them as they fight for a top 6 finish in the Championship. Johnson is a versatile player who could play both in a forward position, out on the wing or even as a wingback due to his ball-carrying ability. He is quite athletic and already has grown quite decently into his frame. Despite his young age, Johnson has become an “unbenchable” player for Cooper, as the youngster has provided nine goals and six assists in a year where he has easily been one of the better players in the league. A national team player for Wales, it comes as no surprise that he is on this list.
Djed Spence, Nottingham Forest (on loan from Middlesbrough)
Another lock on this list is Spence, a player that whose buzz had been growing in recent seasons. Two years ago, Spence received a glowing recommendation from Jose Mourinho after Spurs faced off against ‘Boro across two legs in the FA Cup. Now with Forest on loan, Spence has played as a wingback in front of Cooper’s preferred back three. At 21, Spence and the aforementioned Johnson have been a terror on the right side of the pitch. With speed to go along with experienced traits in his game, Spence could potentially walk into a starting role for Spurs, but would likely be a good complement to Emerson Royal.
Keane Lewis-Potter, Hull City
A few years ago, Spurs had interest in Jarrod Bowen, but ultimately it was West Ham who won the race for the talented player. Lewis-Potter finds himself playing in a similar situation to the one Bowen played when he was at Hull. In my assessment, Lewis-Potter is further along in his development than Bowen was at the time. The 21-year-old is a dynamic left-winger who is an excellent striker of the ball. He would benefit significantly by adding some muscle to his frame, but his technique and attacking prowess already provides for a lot of optimism. Spurs expressed interest in Lewis-Potter in the January transfer window and since Hull is seemingly going nowhere in the Championship, perhaps they would be willing to let go of their most prized asset.
Tosin Adarabioyo, Fulham
I tried not to include players from either Fulham or Bournemouth considering that they are quite likely to promote this season (and hence less likely to sell their best talent), but Adarabioyo’s contract does expire at the conclusion of next season, meaning Fulham may be forced to sell while he retains value. One of the older players on this list at 24, Adarabioyo featured a ton for Fulham’s Premier League team last season. Due to how the Cottagers played last season, Adarabioyo and Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen were left isolated a lot. The former Man City man is a taller and more athletic centerback and possesses comfort on the ball to play in a more possession-oriented team. With Fulham likely gaining promotion this season, Adarabioyo’s stock should continue to rise if he continues to play at a high level.
Sam Johnstone, West Brom
A goalkeeper I have advocated for in the past, Spurs will likely look for alternative options than Pierluigi Gollini in the coming transfer windows. While the Italian ‘keeper has been a good addition in the locker room from a character perspective, quick analysis shows that he is not the most productive goalkeeper. Steve Bruce’s side does not seem likely for promotion, so perhaps Spurs could take advantage of the club in the situation they are in and bring in Johnstone, a player who impressed last season in the top flight. Johnstone would count for the homegrown player pool, something that is an added bonus for a backup goalkeeper. Additionally, he provides comfort playing out the back and would not be that expensive with his contract expiring at the conclusion of the season.
Jayden Bogle, Sheffield United
There were not many bright spots for the Blades in their Premier League campaign last season. However, Bogle became one as the season went on. At 21, Bogle showcased some of the impact he had with Derby County a few seasons ago in the Premier League. At Derby, he starred for a talented team led by Frank Lampard. At a club that has gone through a bit of a rough spell, Bogle has been one of the Sheffield’s better players. While the Blades are fighting for promotion, Bogle is still on the radar despite the variety of talented fullbacks within England. Right wingback will certainly be an area Spurs address this summer and Bogle would be a low-cost, high reward type of move, especially if Sheffield stay in the Championship.
Antoine Semenyo, Bristol City
Since returning from injury, Semenyo is finally starting to live up to the reputation many expected since coming back from loan a couple of seasons ago. In just 19 games this season in the Championship, Semenyo has contributed 14 goal contributions (six goals, eight assets) playing alongside seasoned Championship veteran Andreas Weimann. Semenyo is a pacey attacker who can dribble, make things happen and provide shots and opportunities from distance. He would likely need another year or two in the Championship before a step up in competition.
Tyrese Campbell, Stoke City
Campbell’s form has ebbed and flowed for a number of seasons, but there is potential in the 22-year-old considering some of the flashes he has shown before. Another versatile attacking outlet, Campbell has always been regarded within Stoke’s program. He is a productive finisher and has shown consistent production in the box despite playing on a number of poor Stoke teams. Stoke look once again in the midst of a lost season, so it would benefit Campbell’s progression if he were to be in a better situation where the team is predicated on making things easier for him instead on him to create individual brilliance.
Scott Twine, MK Dons
Looking past the Championship to England’s third tier, there is no better talent in League One than Twine. Similar to Dele, Twine is a player who best operates in the middle of the pitch in likely an attacking midfield spot. His ceiling is somewhat limited because of his stature, but Twine has excellent technique and understanding of the game at a young age. The Dons look like a good bet for promotion to the Championship next season, but perhaps there is a deal to be done between the two clubs. Spurs have done business in the past with the Dons with Dele and most recently Troy Parrott who is currently on loan there for the season. There is even a thought that Spurs might consider exchanging Parrott for Twine. If the club were to do that, Twine would benefit by playing in a league a step up in the Championship on loan before working his way into the fray at Spurs.
Toby Savin, Accrington Stanley
Another League One talent Spurs have been linked to (albeit by The Sun), Savin is another goalkeeping option that would not cost a ton of money and would count towards the homegrown player quota. On top of having a great name for a goalkeeper, Savin has been a regular for Accrington Stanley since he was 19. Now 20, Savin is one to watch for the future and would be a worthwhile punt with his contract expiring next season.
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