Comparing Tottenham’s Striker Targets

Tottenham target Charlie Austin
Tottenham target Charlie Austin /

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Another day, another striker being linked with a move to Tottenham. Today it’s QPR’s Charlie Austin.

Mauricio Pochettino was coy in today’s press conference ahead of Stoke City’s visit to White Hart Lane this Saturday, refusing to acknowledge that Lyon forward Clinton N’jie is almost certainly a lock to sign for the club in the next 24 hours. But while he couldn’t corroborate the many reports we’re reading about N’jie’s imminent arrival, he did say that Tottenham were due to recruit one more striker.

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Those of us who might lack the enthusiasm to over-analyze Pochettino’s statement and pick it apart for some hint at Tottenham’s next move. And then there’s Hotspur HQ.

N’jie, as we’re sure you are aware, can certainly operate as a proper striker or center forward, but he’s due to be brought in to Spurs on the basis of a season spent predominantly on the wing. That tells us that the young Cameronian might not be the striker that Pochettino is referring to, and that indeed Spurs are still in the running for a more appropriate backup to Harry Kane.

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Earlier this week we explored the possibility of West Brom’s Said Berahino or Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez joining Spurs. Of the two, Berahino is the choice most Spurs fans would likely make, but either would be at the very least a worthy backup to Kane.

Now, conveniently, Charlie Austin’s name seems to have returned to the conversation. The English striker played in QPR’s Championship opener last weekend but still appears to be available for sale. Tottenham’s pursuit of him – assuming that the rumors are true – casts a slightly different picture of the London club’s intentions for the coming season.

In Berahino Spurs would have a player that, like Kane, is eager to drop into deeper positions. He’s not a creator-cum-striker exactly, but he’s certainly the time of player a team adds when they’re looking for someone to be involved in multiple phases of a game, specifically build up play and finishing.

Charlie Austin, put plainly, is not that type of player. He’s primarily a finisher, not quite a poacher but not far off either. His 18 goals were enough to earn him fourth in the top scorers ranking after Sergio Agüero, Kane and Diego Costa. In a QPR side stuffed with mostly unfulfilled promise, he was about the only player to actually deliver.

Side by side, the two English strikers’ differences become clear.

Saido BerahinoCharlie Austin
Shots PG2.33.7
Key Passes PG0.70.7
Dribbles PG0.70.4
Fouled PG11.3
Offsides PG0.51

Berahino out-passes Austin by a substantial margin and finds himself offside half as often. That suggests he sits deeper than the QPR striker, trading passes with teammates in the attack’s build up. His inability to outdo Austin in key passes per game or assists is telling: perhaps Berahino’s vision is not matched by his decision making. Or it could simply mean that he lacked teammates around him to properly capitalize on his accurate passing.

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The gulf between the two players’ shots per game tells a different story. Austin’s 3.7 shots per game made him the second highest shot taker in the league last season after Agüero. The fact that Mario Balotelli wasn’t far behind at 3.5 shots per game shows you how much quality Austin is able to find in those shots. His 11% conversion rate for non-penalty goals trails the likes of Agüero at 14% and Kane at 17%, but it’s still a superior rate to most Premier League strikers.

In the end, it will come down to what exactly Pochettino thinks Tottenham needs to continue to evolve while also succeeding. Would Berahino’s industriousness do better at Tottenham with the likes of Kane, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli finishing off his passes? Or would a battering ram like Austin be able to complement Kane’s forward momentum? The next few weeks worth of deals will go a long way into defining Tottenham’s future in attack.

Next: Tottenham Due to Part Ways with Soldado