Tottenham Hotspur have been linked with Israeli winger Manor Solomon for a while now. It seemed weird then. It seems even more weird now that Fabrizio Romano has tweeted that Spurs are planning on signing him on a free transfer.
EXCLUSIVE: Tottenham have reached verbal agreement with Manor Solomon, here we go! ⚪️ #THFC— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 2, 2023
Deal in place as medical tests have been scheduled for next week.
Solomon agreed personal terms.
He’s joining Spurs as free agent — if all goes to plan with Shakhtar and FIFA rules. pic.twitter.com/VMfbmEvAa1
Here’s why it’s weird. Two years ago Solomon was playing for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine when war broke out. FIFA issued an executive order (Annex 7) that stated that foreign nationals playing in Ukraine were able to suspend their contracts without their clubs’ permission and play elsewhere. Solomon did exactly that, moving to Fulham on loan this past season. A later FIFA ruling allowed those same foreign players to essentially annul their contracts, making them free agents.
Shakhtar is, obviously, pretty unhappy with that result. They quite liked him and are not pleased with the idea of FIFA telling them that Solomon can leave for nothing. In fact, faced with Spurs’ interest in Solomon, earlier this month Shakhtar’s chief Sergei Palkin threatened to sue Tottenham if they signed him.
Which then makes the recently announced friendly match between Tottenham and Shakhtar on August 6 verrrrrrrry interesting. That match, the first preseason friendly and a surprise addition ahead of Spurs’ tour to Australia and Asia, is a charity friendly at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with all proceeds to benefit Shakhtar’s club charity, which benefits Ukrainian war victims.
Look, I’m hardly a conspiracy theorist but it’s not difficult to connect the dots here. Nobody has confirmed that the friendly is in any way connected to Spurs agreeing to sign Solomon, but come on. Spurs approaching Palkin and saying “Hey, we’ll sign him but we’ll throw some cash your way via this friendly match in exchange for dropping any lawsuit” feels very, very plausible.
But the other reason why this signing is weird is that... I’m just not yet convinced he’s very good. I only have access to Solomon’s stats from his time at Shakhtar, but those numbers show a promising but young footballer playing for a decent team in a second tier league.
At Fulham he was... again, weird. He tracks as a good volume passer but most of those passes are shortish. He scored 4 goals in only 500 min but all four of them came in consecutive games in February and early march... a pretty nice streak, but just a streak. He made only four starts for Fulham in that half season, and didn’t start at all after April 25.
What he does do really well according to the stats is dribble. He averaged 2.99 (let’s call it 3) successful take-ons per 90 and was a fairly efficient shooter, though again most of his production came in those four early spring matches against Forest, Brighton, Wolves, and Brentford. When his minutes declined, so did his production. You’d be tempted to say that these numbers aren’t so bad for a young dribbly winger in his first stint in the Premier League. But even though he’s still 23, Solomon is almost a full year older than Dejan Kulusevski.
So what gives? Well, for starters, he’s free. And you can also cock your head, squint, and suggest that he has a pretty high ceiling. Solomon also has some pretty good tackle and interception numbers for a young winger, averaging 4 T+I/90 in admittedly very limited minutes for Fulham. Maybe Ange Postecoglou sees him as a pressing winger with a low cost and a high upside, someone who the stats nerds identified as a decent punt and a good fit for high-octane pressing tactics.
But man, I dunno. It feels like Spurs have been kind of obsessed with young dribbly wingers since time immemorial (e.g. Gil, Bryan) and none of them have really worked out post-Son Heung-Min. Plus, there just aren’t very many minutes for these kinds of players on this Tottenham Hotspur team and I’m not really sure if the numbers back up using up a pretty vital foreign roster spot for this guy.
But these are Big Ange tactics, they’re new and different, and I’ve been hurt so many times before. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong! This just feels like an opportunistic punt, rather than a tactical master stroke, especially considering there are what feels like a lot better players in this exact role that we could be considering. The price is right, though, and we’re going to find out just how wrong (or right) I am this season.