It’s no secret Antonio Conte and Tottenham are in the market for wingbacks, with Middlesborough’s Djed Spence the most heavily linked name at present, but how does he compare to our current options?
Although contracted to Middlesbrough, Spence was loaned to Nottingham Forest last season, where his impressive performances helped the Reds earn Premier League football for the first time this century.
In his 42 Championship appearances last season, 39 of which came for Forest, the Englishman put up a respectable return of two goals and four assists, even being named in the Sky Sports Championship Team of the Season.
The Englishman has received well-deserved praise through transfer speculation, with Tottenham reportedly closest to securing his signature.
With a rumoured fee of £20 million, however, considering Spence’s 2020/21 campaign, being 21-years-old, and the apparent “English tax” added to any homegrown player, this looks like a steal.
Spence predominantly operated as a right-wingback last season, looking readymade for Conteball and, in truth, would be an upgrade on both Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal.
While Doherty has shown flashes of brilliance, he is often inconsistent and is upgradeable. As for Emerson, it’s clear his strengths lie in defending, failing to contribute offensively to the degree Conte demands of his wingbacks.
So let’s compare the three.
Last season, Spence recorded more interceptions and blocks per 90 than Doherty and Emerson while committing fouls and being dribbled past less than once per game.
While his 1.4 tackles per 90 is a drop on Emerson’s 2.4, the Englishman’s main strengths lie in attack, as he looks to fit the mold of a Conte-style wingback.
Spence puts up 1.9 dribbles per 90, almost four times that of Emerson and five of Doherty. Through a simple eye test when watching Spurs, this is a trait we severely lack, as there is an apparent reluctance from either fullback to drive the ball forward into dangerous positions.
The Englishman also completes one key pass per game, which puts him on par with Doherty and Royal, and he draws 1.5 fouls per 90, the same as Royal and five times that of Doherty.
Given that Spence’s stats come from a season in the Championship and Doherty and Emerson’s from Premier League football, comparisons must be made with a pinch of salt. However, the Englishman has what it takes to displace either player, outperforming both Tottenham men in average season rating.
If reports are to be believed, we could see Spence holding a Spurs shirt as early as the weekend, as surprisingly, we look relatively unopposed for his signature.
Spence looked like an exciting prospect due to our lack of creativity from right-wingback last season, so Conte and Paratici must push hard to secure one of last season’s breakout Championship stars.