It took a long time and there were many twists and turns in the tale, but Tottenham Hotspur eventually signed Pedro Porro. This is important because ahead of this month, the right wingback position had not improved during Antonio Conte’s tenure. There was a brief period towards the latter end of last season where Matt Doherty was in good form but a nasty injury in the Aston Villa match led to him missing the rest of the season. Like in any window, Spurs were linked to a variety of players in the summer. And while they brought in Championship standout Djed Spence, Conte mentioned at the start of the year that Spence was a clear “club signing”. Even so, Spurs went into the season with Doherty and Emerson Royal as their primary options for the right wingback role.
Despite some pretty good recent performances from Emerson, the intention was made clear early in the January window that Fabio Paratici was targeting another right wingback. Spence went out on loan to Rennes and Doherty went out of the club entirely, which came as a surprise after the rumors of him being linked to Atléti. In the end, Spurs opted to hold onto Emerson and while the Brazilian has struggled at times in the wingback role, supporters have to remember that on top of being a traditional wingback, he is also 24 years old and definitely the most valuable in the market between himself, Doherty (31) and Spence. It’s also possible that Spurs will look to move Emerson on in the summer with the idea of him moving to a club that fits more to his profile.
Just hours before the close of the window, Spurs made the transfer of Porro official. It ended up being somewhat of an expensive signing, but this is a 23-year-old who fits the wingback position to a tee and is certainly one of the better prospects in Europe. Make what you want of Spurs’ club strategy, but the tea leaves indicate that Paratici is building a younger squad filled with technically-proficient players who fit a certain mold. Cristian Romero, Dejan Kulusevski, Rodrigo Bentancur and Porro are all the age of 25 or under and fit within that category.
The expectation is that Porro will eventually become the first-choice option in the role after he is drilled on the tactics and the patterns. Personally, I still expect Emerson to start in the weekend against Man City. But after a few weeks of training and more individualized breakout sessions of the wingbacks, Porro’s quality will eventually shine and he will become first-choice.
Because Spurs played Sporting in the Champions League, supporters have already had a couple of matches to see him play. I will add in below my description and report of the player from my piece on potential right wingback targets in early December.
Formerly a Manchester City player, it should be mentioned that City do have a buy-back clause on the 23-year-old Spaniard. From a statistical baseline research perspective, Porro is a capable ball-progresser and passer of the ball but he excels in the final attacking third. Perhaps due to how Sporting are one of the most dominant teams in the Primeira Liga, his defensive output statistically could be a little skewed. He is the type of player that is extremely well-rounded. He can beat defenders and whip balls into the box at dangerous rates, but he is also capable of being a huge figure in build-up play because of his technical ability. He is a danger to get into spaces in the final third to exploit defenses and take important shots on goal.
On top of his technical capabilities, Porro is also good deliverer of the ball and someone who can play a variety of passes. His defensive ability is somewhat suspect due to him constantly playing on the shoulder for a team that is dominant in their league. Emerson may be a more capable defender, so they do somewhat complement each other well, giving Conte options depending on tactics an opponent.
It is important to note that Antonio Conte’s sides move up the field both tactically and together as a unit. The most well-drilled Conte sides are not necessarily ones that are pragmatic or counter-attacking despite his reputation. His automations are instead intertwined with the ability to get the most out of certain technical features within his players. Dejan Kulusevski has been the most recent and visible recipient of Conte’s development, and he has been so key to the overall flow and balance of the side. Because Kulusevski is a creator who plays with his head up and is strong enough to hold onto the ball against defenders, he can command the respect of defenses in certain spaces while also being able to take some demand off of Emerson or Doherty when either were playing.
With Porro, Spurs now have a player that can better progress the ball deliver from certain spaces down the right flank, which can allow for Kulusevski to be in more advanced positions to further lay in a defense-opening pass or even a dangerous shot on the goal with his left boot.
At Sporting, it was common for Porro to initiate attacks and ultimately be the build-up of the side. With speed and technical capabilities to go with it, Porro received the ball in deep positions and constantly progressed the ball up the pitch before providing end product to the point where sometimes he would even force it in certain situations. Conte’s staff will need to look to settle the over-involvement aspect in Porro’s game, but the his license to push the ball quickly up the pitch provides a lot of promise for Spurs’ attack.
All season long, Spurs have been a dangerous attacking side — as evidence by their goals — despite their lack of creative players within the squad. I’ve said before that the creativity of Conte’s sides does not come from individual players. It instead comes from the system itself. Adding a player like Porro gives Spurs another attacking-minded threat who will provide ability from an area from which Spurs have not had much production all season. A player like Porro will be able to win duels in deeper areas by either getting to the byline and working inside with Kulusevski, or by playing off of him. Once the duo of Kulusevski and Porro gain familiarity with one another, Spurs’ right side should provide for some wonderful dynamism that they have yet to have with consistency.
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