Opinion: Jonathan David is the man to lead Tottenham’s new front line

At the outset of the season, I wrote that if Harry Kane was sold, it would be my preference for them not to replace him immediately (SpursWeb).

If I were a politician, I would double down on this assertion, manipulate statistics and spread false narratives to back me up. Fortunately, that is not my occupation, and I am more than willing to put my hands up and admit that I was not correct in this assumption.

My main reasoning in performing this abrupt one-eighty is that Tottenham have started far better than I believed would be possible. The goalkeeper looks confident; the defence, despite a few hairy moments, is gelling and the midfield has transformed into one of the best in the league.

In a complete reversal of the last few seasons, our attack now looks like our weakest area on the pitch with Son and Deki yet to find their feet in the new system and Richarlison looking ineffective as the sole striker.

Whisper it quietly, but if we get the attack sorted, we could be in for quite the season. As I said, I did not expect us to be in this position. I expected the transition to be a longer process, but the way the players have taken on instruction and bought into the ‘Postecoglou way’ has been remarkable.

So, instead of the patience I preached before, I am now roaring ‘Carpe Diem’ from the top of my voice. There is money in the bank. Go and spend it. Go out and buy Jonathan David. I will tell you why…

The Need for a striker

One of my principal arguments in favour of waiting to sign a striker was that I believed that Richarlison had enough about him to do a serviceable job up front.

However, after two games – which I do concede is a limited sample size – I have somewhat shifted my perspective. Richarlison has looked lost in both performances, and some energetic pressing and a couple of half chances are not enough to warrant a starting position in the team.

Some will argue that he does a good job as a lone striker for Brazil – and while this is true – it is a very different way of playing with one up top. For the national side, he plays as a deep-lying forward and allows the midfield runners such as Vinicius Jnr, Neymar and Raphina to run in behind and work around him.

This is why he is preferred to Gabriel Jesus, not because he is a better player, but because he has the ability to play that functional role.

Unfortunately, I do not think he has the technique, skillset or tactical nous to play this role for Tottenham – indeed, it could be argued his presence is hindering the performances of Son and Kulusevski as he is not identifying positions where they can find him, whilst also not creating space for them to exploit.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JUNE 15: Jonathan David of Canada during the CONCACAF Nations League Semi Final between Panama and Canada at Allegiant Stadium on June 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.(Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Football Attributes

So, what does Ange want from his striker in this system? A ruthless predator is key.

David was not the most prolific earlier in his career, but has consistently hit double figures for both Gent and current club Lille. Last season he scored 26 in 40 appearances across all competitions (TransferMarkt).

In the league, he netted 24 times with an xG of 23.96 (SofaScore). He scored 6 with his left and 17 with his right – which is essential in this Spurs team, when he can be expecting balls in from both flanks.

One caveat that has to be acknowledged is that ten of these goals were penalties (he missed one), which does ‘plump the data’ somewhat – but also gives us a potential new penalty taker.

He is also a fierce presser of the ball with Ange looking to win the ball back as fast as possible, he would suit this role to perfection.

He is also able to drop in to link the play and allow other players to attack (see positional sense section below). He is also incredibly fast, especially over those first few yards, which will allow him to find that space in the box to latch on to crosses and cutbacks.

Positional sense

At Celtic, Postecoglou expected his striker, Kyogo, to basically wait in the box until a chance arrived and then snap it up. It worked a treat.

However, with wide forwards such as Kulusevski and Son, who have an abundance of talent, the role of the central striker has changed.

There is a need for the striker to be involved in the build-up play and facilitate the wide men so they can be more of a goal threat as well.

The problem for Richarlison here is two-fold. Firstly, when he was a part of the build-up play for Everton, he operated predominantly on the left-hand side of the pitch.

Based on the graphic below, he will not be able to work in these positions under the Postecoglou formation because it is covered by a combination of predominantly Maddison and Son.

Graphics courtesy of (Sofascore).

You can see from the heat map above that Jonathan David would be more adept at working on the right-hand side of the pitch – in tandem with Kulusevski, Sarr and whichever full-back is selected.

You can also see from David’s graphic that he likes to operate within the penalty box – just like Kyogo did under Ange at Celtic.

His Footballing Journey

One of the other strikers Tottenham have been linked with recently is Gift Orban. The Nigerian is currently plying his trade in the Belgian top division and a concern I have is that the step up to the Premier League is vast.

Admittedly, his statistics are quite frankly mind-boggling but converting that would be extremely difficult and definitely a risk. Against West Ham last season, he failed to score and looked exciting in bursts rather than consistently in an overall performance.

Jonathan David also started his European journey in Belgium, playing, like Orban, at Gent, before being transferred to Lille in France – a notable step up, where he took time to adapt before finding consistent form.

When Postecoglou signed Vicario, he stated that he respected his footballing pathway (football.london) to the top.

Incidentally, David’s journey is somewhat similar to that of Postecoglou, starting in Canada, a country more associated with ice hockey than ‘soccer’ before moving to Europe.

I think Ange will resonate with this and see in him someone who has had to work hard to take those steps and being challenged to perform at every level.

Personality

There is no doubt that Jonathan David will command a huge transfer fee. He is valued at around £50 million and there has been interest from Real Madrid earlier this summer (although possibly as a pawn in the ongoing game that is Kylian Mbappe) (Transfermarkt).

Add to this Tottenham’s receipt of close to £100m, their need for a top-class forward and the alarming proximity to the transfer window ‘slamming shut’ (nobody gently closes it) – and Lille can inflate that number to possibly as high as £70-80m.

Not naming names, but Tottenham have been stung by huge transfer fees in the past, and to spend this money they will have to do their due diligence on the player and their personal attributes to ensure they have the mentality to play for Tottenham.

A quick Google search of ‘Jonathan David Scandal’ revealed nothing, but certain decisions in his life point towards him being a level-headed and driven individual.

As a youngster in Canada (having grown up in Haiti), David could have joined professional side Vancouver Whitecaps (First Time Finish). However, his mother was adamant that his education came first. Such level-headedness and determination to make the correct decision speaks volumes for both him and his mother.

Once he had made the decision to turn professional and had spent a couple of seasons at Gent, he was signed by Lille to replace outgoing superstar Victor Osimhen (does this situation sound familiar?).

The weight of expectation was immense and despite a slowish start to life in Ligue 1, David has become a more than able replacement (Breaking The Lines).

Whoever, comes in at Tottenham will have to live with the burden of being ‘the next striker after Kane’. I do not think Richarlison has coped with it, but David has proved once before that following a club icon is something that will not phase him.

Since his move to France, there has been interest in the forward from England, with both Arsenal and Chelsea signalling that he could be a potential signing (football.london).

However, the Canadian rejected the move, which would have significantly improved his wages, to focus on his development and ensuring regular game time, thus indicating that he is incredibly professional and also that his agent has his best interests at heart.

Verdict

There is definitely interest from the club in the Canadian superstar (FourFourTwo) and I have (as I tend to do when writing these articles) thoroughly convinced myself that he can be the key to unlocking Tottenham’s full potential in the front line.

Over the years, Lille have delivered talent to the Premier League almost on a conveyor belt: Hazard, Cabaye, Gabriel, Botman (not to mention other stars such as Rafa Leao, Victor Osimhen and Benjamin Pavard).

It’s time to get that conveyor belt rolling again, to deliver a Canadian to N17.

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