Have Tottenham found their next Christian Eriksen?
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Not too many Premier League fans are sailors. If they were, they’d understand that small course corrections are recommended when out on the water yet the knee-jerk reaction among most supporters is that their clubs buy the most expensive players available and overhaul the squad.
Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy may very well be a sailor, however. Certainly, Spurs faithful have become accustomed to his strong hand on the tiller. He doesn’t let the current take him wherever it will in the transfer market, which might be the main reason Nuno Espirito Santo rather than Antonio Conte will manage the club in 2021/22. The former Wolves boss doesn’t believe his new side should undergo a complete refit.
He isn’t in a panic because Danny Rose, Juan Foyth and Paulo Gazzaniga have all said their goodbyes to North London. Rose made the shortest move, signing on a free for newly promoted Watford, while Foyth’s loan to Villarreal was made permanent for £13.5 million and Gazzaniga was given an unconditional release.
Nor is there any need to panic. Ryan Sessegnon returns from Hoffenheim to compete with Sergio Regullon and Ben Davies for the left-back role. Joe Rodon, Japhet Tanganga and Cameron Carter-Vickers can spell Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld as needed. Joe Hart is a capable second for Hugo Lloris in goal. With new football man Fabio Paratici close to signing young Argentine defender Cristian Romero and Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini, there shouldn’t be any holes at the back.
The only reason alarms should be ringing is that Harry Kane remains unsettled. Realistically, there is little to be done about that beyond Nuno demonstrating to the Spurs and England captain that he has title ambitions despite his willingness to work on a tight budget. The arrival of a fresh-faced, bright-eyed young midfielder who played his football at Eibar last year despite being on Sevilla’s books might be a good starting point. He might remind Kane of an absent friend.
Data by Understat.com
No one will deny that Tottenham played its best football during the Mauricio Pochettino era with Christian Eriksen pulling the strings. While the Dane ran out of patience with Spurs inability to win silverware sooner than Kane and journeyed to Milan to acquire some on his own, it was clear that the North Londoners missed his influence. With direct players like Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura assuming his minutes, Kane ended up taking on the dual burden of creating and finishing attacks. He did so ably, leading the Premier League in goals and assists, but the fact he did both suggests that Tottenham either need another centre-forward or playmaker.
The praise coming out of Spain for Bryan Gil, where he has been dubbed the “Little Cruijff”, suggests he could be the latter. His stats at Eibar were promising, four goals and as many assists in 28 appearances for La Liga’s worst side in ‘20/21. His numbers in terms of build-up play don’t yet approach Eriksen’s production but they map out similarly. If he develops, it will be into the type of playmaker the Dane was before his tragic heart attack.
At the tender age of 20, there is time for it all to go wrong, of course. Think Bojan Krkic’s ill-fated move from Barcelona to Stoke City. Nuno Espirito Santo isn’t Tony Pulis, however. He has a reputation for developing young players like Gil.
If the deal is done, the youthful Spaniard won’t step into the starting XI immediately. He might ride the bench or another loan spell to a suitable side could be in the offing. Regardless, it might be worth it for Spurs fans to keep an eye on Spain’s progress in the Tokyo Olympics where Gill will be featured in the midfield. Amid all the recent turmoil, they might find a reason to be excited again.