Heading into the offseason, if you were to ask what Tottenham Hotspur head coach Antonio Conte’s prime positional target for an upgrade is, you’d say a left-sided center back. And that is where Managing Director of Football Fabio Paratici seemingly spent the bulk of his time, first unsuccessfully targeting Inter Milan’s Alessandro Bastoni, and then another failed attempt for RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol.
Both of those were the pipe dream, A-level candidates for the position currently occupied by Ben Davies. And now that both Bastoni and Gvardiol are seemingly off the table, there’s a bit of a drop-off in talent level for the kind of player Conte wants there, especially if Spurs are trying to attract a young talent.
That’s why the latest rumors are that Spurs may be thinking about pivoting to plan B, and securing a short term loan for Barcelona’s 27-year old French LCB, Clement Lenglet.
Tottenham is pushing hard for Clement Lenglet. The player has not yet said yes, but he is increasingly open to it. At the end of this week there will be a key meeting between the parties.
Lenglet is probably nobody’s idea of an ideal Tottenham Hotspur signing, especially in a world where Bastoni and Gvardiol are theoretically available. He doesn’t fit the age profile that Conte is looking for and he’s coming off of what is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a mediocre season at Barca (though Barca had some serious flaws top to bottom last season). However, Lenglet’s strengths — comfort on the ball, solid positioning, solid passing, and comfort playing out of the back — would certainly fit in with Conte’s back three tactics. According to FBref’s statistical profile, Lenglet is in the 99th percentile in both attempted passes, progressive passes, and progressive carries. It should be noted however that the sample size is small as he only played 826 minutes last season.
Moreover, Lenglet is unlikely to be a permanent signing, but a one-year loan, something Barcelona desperately wants in order to help clear space on their wage bill. Signing Lenglet on loan would effectively represent Tottenham kicking the can down the road, possibly as soon as next year when in theory Bastoni might be more available. Lenglet wouldn’t be a particularly sexy signing, but as Spurs are in a position where they don’t have a legitimate backup or competition for Ben Davies, I’m pretty convinced he could operate at or even ahead of Davies’ level in Spurs’ back line.
There’s a pretty steep drop at LCB between Gvardiol and Bastoni and the other available players. Punting temporarily at LCB might allow Spurs to bring in more right footed quality defensive depth like a Pau Torres or Gleison Bremer, and give Spurs additional flexibility to spend big on someone like Richarlison or at other positions, especially late in the window. I wouldn’t be necessarily overjoyed at the idea of renting Lenglet for a season, but I think he could do a job for us, and I think I like the idea of punting and taking another crack at signing Bastoni next summer than I do spending big on another, younger LCB that might not be as good a fit.