Like a lot of Tottenham Hotspur transfers in the recent past, the Lilywhites’ first move of the January transfer window came a week ahead of schedule, with Tottenham Hotspur’s eleventh hour “gazzumping” of Everton for Arnaut Danjuma.
Currently at Villarreal in La Liga, the Spanish side’s difficult financial situation has put the club in situation where they have to sell some of their assets. The Toffees had been heavily linked with Danjuma’s signature for quite some time and rumor had it that the Dutch international had already begun meeting with Everton players and had also completed media sessions. However, with Everton sacking Frank Lampard and sitting currently in 19th place, the move to Spurs is obviously more enticing. Considering that Danjuma likely would have walked immediately into an Everton side riddled with a lot of playmaking options, it does say a lot that he would prefer to play at Spurs despite wide talent like Dejan Kulusevski, Richarlison and Heung-min Son — the latter of course struggling to find any form... but more on that later. Regardless, Spurs sit in fifth position and are still alive in the Champions League final sixteen with an important FA Cup game vs. Preston coming up.
Before getting into what type of player Danjuma is, it is important to mention his background. At 25, Danjuma has experienced somewhat of an interesting rise. He was an important player at Villarreal and was a key figure for The Yellow Submarine in their against-all-odds run to the Champions League semi-final last season under Unai Emery.
In August 2019, Bournemouth splashed quite a bit of money to bring Danjuma aboard from Belgium’s Club Brugge. The move didn’t bear immediate fruit as Danjuma struggled to get into form on a relegation-bound Cherries team. Bournemouth’s return to the Championship reaped serious rewards for Danjuma as the Dutch international started 29 matches and (along with current B’mouth striker Dominic Solanke) was the club’s most influential figure. Despite nine less starts, Danjuma produced just one less goal contribution than Solanke as the Cherries finished sixth on the year and eventually lost in the Championship Playoffs to PL-bound Brentford. Over the course of two legs against the Bees, it was Danjuma who scored a goal in both matches putting Bournemouth up 2-0 on advantage before three goals from Brentford guided them to their promotion.
Due to his scoring record in the Championship in 2020-21, Danjuma was on the radar of several European clubs. However, no one within England bit and Danjuma left to join Villarreal for a fee of around €23m. Danjuma’s excellent form continued despite the step up in competition. He was a key figure for Emery for much of the season until a muscular injury caused him to miss the end of the 2021-22 season. Despite playing in just 23 games, Danjuma was the club’s leading scorer. It was in the Champions League where Danjuma’s name gained more attraction in large part due to his performances over two legs against Bayern Munich.
However, it has been somewhat of a failure to launch for Danjuma this season and he has struggled to get back into Emery’s side after returning from the lengthy muscular injury. Additionally, Villarreal has two terrific homegrown prospects in Yéremy Pino and Samuel Chukwueze who play in similar positions. When Emery left cash-strapped Villarreal in November to join Aston Villa, it made Danjuma’s situation even more complicated. Since former Barcelona man Quique Setién joined the club, Danjuma has been dropped from match-day squads, reportedly due to attitude issues. Which leads us to where we are now.
Like most Spanish clubs, Villarreal find themselves in a bleak financial situation. And while Spurs, ENIC, Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis deserve criticism for their reluctance to spend over the years, Tottenham’s finances are in a much-healthier spot than most other clubs within the continent. There hasn’t been a lot of detail about Spurs’ post-COVID finances, but it was an important point revealed within Tottenham’s All or Nothing series on Amazon a few seasons ago. Over the past couple of weeks, reporting around Tottenham has indicated that the club prefers to bring players in on loan (with installments being paid over time) in comparison to spending a higher expenditure upfront within the tumultuous January window. If you recall, last season while Spurs brought Rodrigo Bentancur on a cheapish fee within the area of $20 million, they brought over Kulusevski on an 18-month loan that came with certain purchasing conditions. (Spurs still have not yet made Kulusevski’s loan into a permanent deal, but that will come likely this summer.)
Danjuma joins Spurs on a short-term loan through the end of the season with Tottenham reportedly having a purchase option of £27m should the club be interested in buying him outright. The loan fee was reported to be in the area of £2.5m in addition to four months of wages.
For starters, the two things I think of immediately with Danjuma are his ability to play across the front line as well as his comfort with both feet. Primarily deployed as a left-sided attacker, Danjuma was an integral creative spark under Emery in a side that was quite predicated on a pragmatic approach. He was extremely comfortable on the ball, repeatedly receiving it deep and breaking through the lines. With Son Heung-Min’s continued poor form continuing into 2023 and Richarlison is still getting up to full speed since returning from injury, Danjuma’s versatility should put him in play for Antonio Conte regardless of if that comes as starter minutes in the FA Cup or as an asset off the bench.
I have talked in the past just how important it is for Conte’s attacking options to be controlled figures to fully execute Conte’s patterns. When Son is not providing that end threat, his lack of individuality and technicality keeps him as a weakness in build-up play and in carrying out attacks. In comparison, Danjuma provides a bit more comfort on the ball and displays good awareness to exploit space either out wide or within the half-space. He lives within the gap between a right back and right-sided center back and considering Conte prefers his attackers to come in and navigate as two number tens, there are traits within Danjuma’s game that align more to this role than Son’s game, at least at the moment.
Danjuma also has some additional dimensions to his game. At Villarreal, the formation constantly shape-shifted. Danjuma was very capable of playing as a second striker while also playing out wide. When out wide, Danjuma has the skill and explosion to win 1v1 duels. But when playing inside at striker, Danjuma can hold his own with his smarts to dictate space and roam to find success.
To me, out of Spurs’ three attacking options behind Harry Kane, Danjuma projects as a player closer in style to Richarlison than either Kulusevski or Son. He is a player capable of individuality but he also has technical components to his game that make him a good fit for Spurs. Regardless of if this was a Levy move, a Conte move or a Fabio Paratici move, this is a low-risk, high-reward investment for Spurs. A loan move without any obligation should still give Spurs the capability to go after a right wingback such as Pedro Porro or another centerback within this window.
While another attacker is definitely not Spurs’ biggest need at present, there have been far too many times this season and even the past few years where Spurs’ bench has been starved of capable attacking options. Top English teams should all have at least six attackers who can play important minutes — Danjuma will be resourceful regardless of the situations he plays and contributes in. The rumor is Danjuma is likely a Lucas Moura replacement and considering the Brazilian has rarely featured for Spurs this season and is likely leaving anyways, this move makes sense. Add in the fact that Spurs and Villarreal likely have a good relationship from the loans of Giovani Lo Celso, it would not be surprising if the two clubs do business in the summer with both players perhaps involved.
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