On Tuesday morning, Tottenham Hotspur finally announced the signing of Djed Spence, ending what seemed like a never-ending transfer saga. Negotiations and talks with Middlesbrough continued for what felt like years, eventually concluding with Spurs announcing the youngster on what was initially a £12.5million fee.
Spence was loaned out to Nottingham Forest after a high-profile falling out with Neil Warnock, who was Boro’s gaffer at the time. Another Boro winger, Isaiah Jones, took his place, and Jones has also gained Premier League consideration since establishing himself in new manager Chris Wilder’s back three. Despite being loaned out late in the summer window, Spence started racing almost immediately for a poor Forest side which quickly moved on under talented manager Steve Cooper. Almost immediately Forest became a powerhouse in the Championship and Spence’s ability to act as a winger for Cooper was a huge reason for that.
While Spence was a starlet for Forest on loan, helping them earn promotion to the top flight for the first time since 1998-99, the truth is Spence is a player who has been on Spurs’ radar for some time. During the 2019-20 season, José Mourinho heaped praise on Spence after Spurs played Boro twice in an FA Cup round, and there has been plenty of substantive talk ever since. Spurs were keeping tabs on him.
Improving the situation for wingers at the club has been a big priority for Tottenham this summer. Antonio Conte likes to make similar substitutions at winger to keep players playing in the role fresh, as it is demanding and essential to Conte’s tactics. With the Premier League dropping to five substitutes this summer, it will be more important than ever for Conte to have a stable of winger options to choose from to maintain the intensity of his system throughout every game. Now that Spence is here, he’s planning yet another wingback option for Conte and Spurs. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons about Spence and what we can expect from him.
Local quota, potential English and international profile
After all of Spurs’ income so far this summer, the focus is now on moving fringe players out of the squad, either on loan or on a permanent basis. This process was already signaled by Conte himself when the Italian left behind players like Sergio Reguilón, Harry Winks and others from the pre-season trip to South Korea. The reason for this is that Spurs, like any Premier League side, must meet a local quota for registering players for the upcoming season.
The home player rule is put in place by the Premier League to encourage the development of more home players. Counterfactually, the rule does not require a minimum number of home players, but rather states that a club can have a maximum of 17 “non-home” players in each team. And since a full team has a maximum of 25 players, that means that to field one, at least eight players must be considered “homegrown”, i.e. trained at an association club for three years before to be 21 years old. Spence ticks the box and he also fills a profile that Spurs have been lacking for some time.
Just a few seasons ago, the England national team was packed with Spurs players. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kieran Tripper and Winks were all in various England squads, but Tottenham’s involvement in Gareth Southgate’s side has been minimal in recent seasons. At Spurs, Spence will now have the profile and the resources (both at club and in the team) to enable him to take the next step in his career. The England national team is brimming with RB/RWB talent, so while it will be difficult for Spence to break into the squad, it is imperative for Spurs player development and future young English talent to see a youngster like Spence to be considered internationally while playing and improving at Spurs.
Young and with potential, but still experienced playing in the RWB position
Spurs have always been a club that likes to buy players at a younger age and develop them. And while they’ve moved away from that approach this offseason with some of their marquee signings being older, Spence’s transfer certainly fits that mold. Although he is only 21, he is a player who has been a key contributor at two different clubs over the past two seasons.
When players like Phil Foden, Dejan Kulusevski and others come into the league and produce from the start, we often forget that players really reach the heights of their careers between the ages of 25 and 28. At 21, Spence is still young but has a wealth of experience in the role he will be asked to play at Spurs.
There is perhaps no better winger developer in recent history than Conte. He may seem to turn water into wine – that was evident when Conte took an older Victor Moses and converted him into a productive winger a few years ago. With Conte overseeing Spence’s development, he’ll be able to simplify what’s being asked of the youngster to get the most out of him. Conte’s strength has always been to identify a player’s strongest skill and ask them for simple things to bring that dimension to the whole group – which brings us to our next point.
Look the part and dangerous for the future
If you look at his defensive stats, Spence is pretty decent in one-on-one duels. He doesn’t often let attackers get past him, but we’ll get to some of his flaws later. Another strength of Spence is that he simply looks the part. He is 6’0″, which is yet another taller player introduced to the squad by Conte – signaling Spurs’ efforts to become more physical. This is due to Conte asking his teams and players to playing extremely physically to sometimes step up opposing teams.Despite his young age, Spence looks extremely strong and he was known last season for contributing in all games.
Last season, Spence excelled at getting past opposing players and advancing attacks. If he plays at right-back like we all expect him to do, he’ll have even more license to play higher up the pitch with Cristian Romero probably covering him from behind and a player like Kulusevski to play to make reverse or overlapping strokes. .
While a player like Emerson Royal may struggle to advance the ball and get into dangerous positions and a player like Matt Doherty may struggle to beat players one on one, Spence provides the opportunity to do something that other Tottenham right wingers can’t. And with five substitutions being implemented next season, that will be important to Conte’s options depending on whether Spurs go on a game or see a result.
Going from the championship to the Champions League
This one is obvious. It would be unfair to expect Spence’s world completely from the jump as he moves on to another new club, but also competitively in the Premier League and Champions League.
Admittedly, Spence should still be considered a bit raw because of this, but he’s a budding prospect with a skill set that can be further improved by the likes of Conte, assistant coach Cristian Stellini and the rest of the team. personal.
If I had to guess, I’d say Doherty would probably be the first-team starter at least out of the gate given his form before his injury last season and the relationship on the pitch he was forming with Kulusevski. However, Spence still has a few more weeks of training under Conte in pre-season. I would be much more pessimistic about Spence’s ability to make the transition immediately if his transfer had gone on indefinitely in the latter parts of the summer window. But, he will still have a few more pre-season games and plenty of time to get used to the fitness and learn the patterns.
Over the past few years, Spurs have become a team that doesn’t rely on crosses to create dangerous chances. It may have been down to Harry Kane’s hold-up play and through the balls as well as Son Heung-Min’s ability to plan behind opposition lines, but Spurs are much more inclined to play through. teams only to accumulate balls from the wings.
When you think of Tottenham’s old attacking winger/back options, Kyle Walker was also not a spectacular ball cruiser and while Trippier was adept at free-kicks, he struggled to make low or high crosses in the surface. Serge Aurier excelled in this area, but of course he had his problems elsewhere.
For Spence, his final ball and delivery into the box was unspectacular despite how easily he got into dangerous positions last season. This may put off some Spurs supporters given that Emerson’s biggest criticism is his last ball. But – again – Conte is going to find what’s easiest for Spence and ask him for things that fit the Italian’s patterns and style of play for the youngster to bring those particular skills to the team.
Defense off the ball + positioning
Like many young players, Spence is still adjusting to some of the more nuanced parts of the game. We can see his brilliance on the ball as well as his fluid footwork and dynamic pace. We can also see how his strength and mature frame can hold up when asked to defend. However, it was the areas of the game where his intangibles weren’t in question that hurt him at times last season at Forest.
Positioning will perhaps be Spence’s main challenge, and at Spurs this will be an area where he will need to improve. Because Conte’s teams are so well equipped and offer a lot of intensity in a middle block, you won’t see opposing teams succeed on the counter very often. However, lapses in focus – whether in defense or simple positioning – can be the difference in close games. We need to see more maturity from Spence because of this.
Spence already has the skills to become a dominant winger in a possession-based team that likes to dictate the tempo and find ways through opposing teams. With proper coaching and supervision of his development, problems and concerns in his game can easily be resolved. Again, expecting Spence’s world would be unfair given the surge in competitiveness he will face this coming season. But, Spence already has all the raw tools he needs to continue to grow at Spurs. And under Conte, he will be given the meticulous platform that will give him the opportunity to work on certain areas of his game and become more of a complete winger.
follow me on Twitter @RyanSRatty.