Through all the problems – delayed stadium openings, thirteen league defeats, and that age-old question hanging over Mauricio Pochettino’s head about when he’d finally win a trophy at Tottenham Hotspur – it looks like the light is firmly shining bright at the end of a long, long tunnel for the North Londoners.
It’s very easy to get sucked into the narrative of Spurs being the underdog who have defied the odds to reach the pinnacle of club football – the Champions League final. Back-to-back transfer windows with no incomings suggested the squad, who’d been worked hard at the World Cup in the summer, were sure to eventually feel the full force of almost two years of consistent regular football.
However, the underdogs have the biggest trophy in club football to play for this weekend, and this achievement coupled with the profile of their latest transfer target suggests Spurs are acting like the ‘big club’ their brand new stadium deserves.
Pochettino’s side are chasing Giovani Lo Celso, once of Paris Saint-Germain but most recently spending his year on loan at Real Betis, and BBC have reported that a £53m bid has been made for the attacking midfielder.
This bid truly begs the question of where fan favourite Christian Eriksen will end up next, and whether the star will be adequately replaced if Spurs’ reported target were to arrive.
The players’ stats for the season tell us a lot about the two players, who unlike what some may be inclined to initially assume, are not perfect like-for-like replacements for one another.
The initial thought is that Eriksen is much more of a calming influence in midfield with the ability to pick out key passes and create moments of magic for his teammates to feed off. His return of 16 assists in the Premier League and Champions League this season prove he is the heartbeat of the Spurs team. Almost every attack flows through him as he looks to pick out runners such as Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son or even the marauding full-backs who provide most of Spurs’ width.
Lo Celso is less of a give-and-go type of player, and is more of a ball carrier. Whilst he boasts the talent and ability on the ball to be the creative influence, his natural instinct is to get his head down and carry his team up the pitch.
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Lo Celso has completed 75 successful dribbles in La Liga and the Europa League compared to Eriksen’s 25, though the Argentine has registered just five assists to the Dane’s 16. Betis’ man has looked a bigger threat in front of goal as well, scoring 14 to the Tottenham man’s 10.
Perhaps what’s strange to evaluate when looking at an attacking midfielder is their defensive duties, but when talking about a player lining up for Pochettino it’s not strange at all.
Since day one, the Spurs boss has pushed his players to impose the press on opposition sides, squeezing and suffocating them into mistakes and ensuring they keep a positive attitude throughout the game. This means any midfielder of Pochettino’s has to be able to press, tackle, and show an overall exhaustive work ethic towards winning the ball back for his side.
Lo Celso looks more than capable, based off tackles alone, to play the role Pochettino will need, having tallied 74 tackles this season to Eriksen’s 50.
There’s no doubt that in the Argentine Spurs are opting for a more direct option, which perhaps isn’t what they need as they already have Dele Alli, Lucas Moura and Son. However, where Lo Celso differs is in his ability to dribble the ball from the centre of midfield and get his side up the pitch, and this could be a huge asset for the Champions League finalists.
If Spurs were able to sign a player of his quality, it would send a real message to the rest of the Premier League, and Tottenham would be building wonderfully on their move into the new stadium along with their Champions League final appearance.