Opinion: Is Pau Torres the perfect upgrade on Ben Davies?

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Pau Torres
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Last summer, Tottenham were linked heavily with Villareal’s Pau Torres, however, the defender rejected the move in favour of a Champions League campaign with his boyhood club (The Guardian), and being honest, who can blame him?

Ten months later, links between Spurs and Torres are stronger than ever, with reports suggesting Daniel Levy is confident of landing the defender this summer at a cut-rate price (Football Insider).

The Spaniard has enjoyed an excellent season, and although he was a household name to many fans back in August, his role in Villareal’s unprecedented run to the Champions League semi-final’s has only enhanced his already impressive reputation.

Unfortunately, despite his recent masterclass in defending at Anfield, Ben Davies would likely be the man to make way if Torres does arrive in North London, as the hard truth is for a side with aspirations of silverware and Champions League football under Antonio Conte, the Welshman is undoubtedly upgradable.

Pau Torres
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Why Pau Torres?

In recent months, Tottenham has been linked with a plethora of supposed centre back targets, as it’s no secret this is an area Conte will look to strengthen this summer.

The rumours are certainly varied, and in truth, seem to cover almost every CB in Europe, however, when comparing Torres to Davies, clear similarities are shared between one another, meaning moving for the Spaniard makes perfect sense.

Whilst Torres is used to playing in a back two, being left-footed (fbref), he would likely fit seamlessly into Davies’ current role, and shares the Welshman’s ability to progress the ball out from the back despite going about it slightly differently.

Of the CB’s in Europe’s top five leagues, Davies ranks in the top 2% for progressive passes received, largely owed to his natural instinct of being a left-back meaning he gravitates higher up the field when out of possession.

Aside from receiving passes, Davies can also progress play on his own, ranking in the top 5% for progressive carries highlighting just how important the defender is in Spurs’ transition play, however, in truth, even his outstanding ability to progress the ball is ultimately bettered by his Spanish counterpart.

Compared to Davies, both Torres’s defending and ball progression look superior, as this season, the Villareal defender is in the top 1% for dribbles completed from CBs in Europe’s top five leagues. Combined with being in the top 9% for progressive carries, this paints a picture of a modern-day, forward-thinking CB astute at moving the ball into the midfield and attack.

Torres also offers a goal threat from defence, ranking in the top 10% for both non-penalty expected goals and non-penalty expected goals and assists which for a Tottenham back three with just two league goals between them (BBC), would certainly be a welcomed addition.

With everything considered, the only potential red flag waved against Torres is whether in terms of pushing forward, is too similar to Cristian Romero? 

As we’ve seen countless times this season, the Argentine has a tendency to push up with the team, often finding himself opponents half of the pitch. Concerns could be raised that if Torres does the same, the third CB, presumably Eric Dier, could be left exposed to potential counter-attacks.

Really, the simple fix for this is tactical management from Conte, as both defenders would need explicit instructions that if one were further forward, the other should remain more reserved, as after all, they are defenders first and foremost.

However with Torres in the bottom 35% for progressive passes received, while the Spaniard excels in progressing the ball himself, he rarely receives the ball high up the pitch, helping put to rest any drastic fears he will play too far forward.

Spursweb Opinion

Although just four years Davies junior, at 25, Torres looks to be in his prime, although would still be young enough to mark a shroud investment in future-proofing the side.

While Torres likely won’t be the only name on Conte and Paratici’s summer shopping list, in our opinion, he must be high up in terms of CB targets, as the defender would arrive in good pedigree owed to his time at Villareal and being capped for Spain 17 times.

While the rumoured fee of £45 million is a tough ask, Torres would certainly be a starter for the side, and if he were to join Spurs this summer the prospect of himself, Romero, and Dier at the back sounds a formidable backline for the Lilywhites.

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