According to Corriere dello Sport, Tottenham are keen on Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo and are evening willing to use Toby Alderweireld as a makeweight in the deal, with the north London outfit offering the former Southampton centre-back plus £21m.
If we forget for a minute that the 30-year-old has just one year left on his current deal, the fact that Spurs are willing to let go of a player who has largely been their best centre-back for the last few years in Alderweireld speaks volumes about Zaniolo’s ability, as do the Italian’s eight goal contributions in just 2,256 minutes across all competitions.
Mauricio Pochettino already has a plethora of options at his disposal in attacking-midfield, with Lucas Moura a revelation in 2018/19; Christian Eriksen establishing himself as one of the best playmakers in Europe; Heung-min Son offering plenty of goals from out wide, and we’ve not even got to Dele Alli yet.
At just 20-years-old, the midfielder has plenty of room to grow and fortunately so, as there are some key areas in need of improvement if he is to usurp any of the aforementioned names from the starting lineup. Read on to find out what aspects of Zaniolo’s game need some work if he is to prevent Spurs chiefs from potentially regretting letting Alderweireld go in exchange for his services…
Of course, ability to spot a pass improves with age and experience in the game but Zaniolo’s involvement in the buildup or creation of a goal isn’t as regular as Pochettino would surely like – the number 22 completes just 0.7 key passes per game, which is less than all of his would-be competitors in attacking-midfield managed.
The Lilywhites’ creative hub, Eriksen, completes 2.1 key passes per game – the eighth-most of all Premier League players – and is usually deployed in a central role, where Zaniolo recorded his best performances last term. The former Inter Milan youngster struck four times in eight appearances in the 10, averaging a match rating of 7.1, whereas in eight appearances as a right winger or right midfielder, he failed to score and achieved a match rating of 6.29 and 6.8, respectively (according to WhoScored).
Former Saints boss Pochettino champions versatility in his attacking quartet and Zaniolo will have to develop his abilities as a wide man if he is to survive at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The 6 foot 3 star completes 1.5 dribbles per game, which is impressive considering his frame, but his ambition on the ball often costs him it seems, as he is dispossessed 2.5 times and also takes 2.6 unsuccessful touches per game – no Spurs player was dispossessed more than 1.6 times while only Harry Kane took more than 2.6 unsuccessful touches (2.9) per game last term (according to WhoScored).
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If the 2-cap international is to be success in north London white, he must ensure that he does not become a liability in the final third; Tottenham will undoubtedly be trying to bridge the gap between themselves and last season’s top two next campaign and, given the quality in depth Pochettino has, it will be very difficult for Zaniolo to hold down a starting spot.
If you don’t shoot, you don’t score, and while Zaniolo is hardly afraid to have a go at goal, he could really set himself apart from Moura and Alli if he even slightly increases the frequency at which he tests the ‘keeper. The left-footer takes 1.8 shots per game, while former PSG man Moura and England international Alli attempt 1.6 and 1.4, respectively; Son, Eriksen and Kane all take 2.4 or more, according to WhoScored.
The latter trio are Spurs’ three of Spurs highest performers, all averaging a match rating of 7.08 or higher, and Zaniolo could find that he can really distinguish himself from the competition if he can match or better their statistics in this department. The Italian’s finishing is already listed as ‘strong’ by WhoScored, indicating that he can put his shots away reliably, too. Why not have a pop, then?