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Mail: Spurs putting together a center back list, checking it twice

Defensive reinforcements would make a nice Christmas present

North Macedonia v England: Group C - UEFA EURO 2024 European Qualifiers Photo by Nikolay Doychinov - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

It’s become pretty clear over the last few weeks that Tottenham Hotspur’s defensive depth isn’t quite where it needs to be, and injuries to Destiny Udogie and Mickey van de Ven, plus a suspension for Cristian Romero has really laid that fact bare. It’s therefore hardly a surprise that Spurs would be looking to add reinforcements at center back in the upcoming January transfer window.

Is it... Bat Country time?

Sure is, with the Daily Mail reporting that the Tottenham hierarchy had a meeting this past week to discuss options for center back targets. We’re labelling this Bat Country as 1) it’s the Daily Mail; 2) as per usual, there doesn’t seem to be much robust sourcing and it’s not being repeated in other outlets; and 3) it doesn’t come from Sami Mokbel, the one Daily Mail reporter who has built up a bit of credibility and has often had quite decent scoops in recent times.

With that said, it’s still worth looking at the names mentioned: Marc Guehi, Crystal Palace; Jarrad Branthwaite, Everton; Malick Thiaw, AC Milan; Morato, Benfica; and Goncalo Inacio, Sporting Lisbon.

Now, I’m not going to pretend I’ve spent extensive amounts of time scouting these players, but we can take a look at their statistical profiles and get a rough idea of play style, and strengths and weaknesses. One thing to note about this list is that all the players are 23 or younger. It’s pretty clear that Spurs are trying to continue to plan for the future, targeting youth with a view to building the side over the next few years.

The other thing of note is that barring one player (we’ll get to that in a minute) all the players listed are comfortable on the ball, with decent to good passing and carry numbers. This makes sense for Ange-ball, as the onus is often placed on the center backs to get on the ball, invite pressure, then start attacking movements. Conversely, it’s a bit harder to get an idea of defensive ability at a glance, as defensive statistics are often more a reflection of play style, both team and individual - which leads us to that one exception I mentioned above.

Jarrad Branthwaite sticks out a bit like the proverbial sore thumb. His on-the-ball numbers are frankly bad, and his defensive numbers show a far more involved profile than any of the other options. Basically, he seems like a no-nonsense old-school center back. That said, how much of that is the fact that Everton are... well, bad? Even taking that into account though, he seems the player that is probably the worst fit, and I’d say he’s an unlikely signing, both due to that and the fact that the Tottenham-Everton relationship has deteriorated in recent weeks as Everton have accused Spurs of leveraging their financial position in the Richarlison deal, contributing to the Toffee’s FFP woes.

In terms of the other options, they all seem like they could be decent depth, and potentially more than that moving forward. We have been linked to Guehi for a while now, and there’s the added bonus that he’s homegrown; however, that will come at a premium with the English international likely to be significantly expensive. The same can probably be said for Morato and Inacio - the Portuguese league is notoriously difficult to deal with, and the likes of Benfica and Lisbon often charge through the nose for their players. Thiaw could be the cheapest option, but Milan are likely loathe to let him leave in January.

It’s hard at this point to really know who Spurs will end up targeting to fill the gap at center back. But it looks like we have some good options on our list, and it looks like we are planning for the future - which is universally a positive thing!