It’s been a very good season if you’re a Spurs fan so far. At the time of writing this article, we’re in second place, firmly cemented in a Champions League position, got a FA Cup semi final to look forward to and are currently 14 points clear of Arsenal. (although that could be cut to 11 points tonight if they beat Palace) I was racking my brains trying to think of how we could be in a better position and my mind has wandered to a signing we made at the start of the season that may or may not have been rushed. And no I’m not talking about Moussa Sissoko. Nor Vincent Janssen. The signing I am referring to was the transfer swap deal that saw us take Georges-Kevin N’Koudou from Marseille for reportedly £11million plus the season-long loan of Clinton N’jie to the French club.
Straightaway, I am going to vehemently point out that this is not a critical article of N’Koudou and by no means do I think that he is a flop or should be written off as a failure. The young Frenchman possesses an abundance of talent and skill and his lightening pace is clearly an asset in the Premier League, also let us keep in mind that he is only 22. However, there is no way that any honest fan can say that N’Koudou has had a successful debut season in the Premier League. If anything, it has been forgettable. Over all competitions, his statistics thus far show 10 appearances, 0 goals and 0 assists. Hardly stats to get your mouth watering. People may argue that he has not been given enough chances but my question to that is simply: Why?
Mauricio Pochettino is one of the most progressive managers in the country and no one can possibly accuse him of failing to give youth a chance during his time in England with Spurs and Southampton. One only has to look at the development of Dele Alli under his charge to see how much Poch has relied on him, even though Dele’s temperament has occasionally threatened to overrule his promise. Therefore, if it is not the fault of the manager, surely the blame lies with the player? Breaking into the Spurs team this season would probably be the most difficult task for anybody over our entire team in the Premier League so admittedly it would take something special but it must be said there have been opportunities for fringe players to step up and perform. A perfect example is Kieran Trippier. He has hardly been given a kick this season in the Premier League but on the odd occasion he has been called up, he has performed masterfully and there have been numerous calls for him to start the next match against Bournemouth this Saturday after his tremendous showing against Watford.
Also, if Moussa Sissoko keeps getting picked ahead of you, surely you have to question yourself, right?
Seriously though, there have been chances in the forward positions. Harry has had his fair share of injury problems over the course of the season, Vinny can’t seem to buy a goal (though privately I believe he does have potential), Lamela’s injury problems have derailed yet another season for him in England and Sissoko…well, I stated my feelings above. Dele, Eriksen and Sonny have been tremendous this season but they need rest and recovery, this is where N’Koudou should have stepped up by now and shown himself to be a reliable performer who is capable of coming on and changing a game if we are struggling or helping us to see it out.
So my main question is: Should we have gone through with the trade for Clinton N’Jie?
The reason I chose to write this article is due to the fact I spotted a story that claimed Marseille were ready to activate the clause to make his loan deal permanent so it got me wondering whether or not this was a smart move by Spurs. N’Jie seems to be somewhat of an enigma since his return to France. On the positive side, he has made 20 appearances altogether for l’OM this season with a return of 4 goals and an assist so it could be argued he has made more of a contribution this season that N’Koudou has for us. He also enjoyed success at the African Cup of Nations with Cameroon by winning the tournament although he played no part in the Final and seemed to be overshadowed by lesser known players such as Christian Bassogog. Also, his form for Marseille has been labelled inconsistent at best, with flashes of brilliance tempered with mediocre performances. However, it is pointless to try and compare two different leagues so I thought it might be more fitting to look at N’Jie’s stats during his single season with us last campaign. In all competitions, he totalled 13 appearances with one assist. Again, hardly stats to savour.
I actually remember N’Jie’s assist well, it was for the final goal when we thumped Man City 4-1 at the start of last season. It was a lovely flick and turn, coupled with an excellent low ball into Erik Lamela’s feet who managed to finish the game. The problem with N’jie is that he needs to be able to perform skill like that on a regular basis. He has been compared (somewhat lazily given the Cameroonian element) to Samuel Eto’o but, like N’Koudou, he has the pace and skill to unlock defences. My own opinion in response to the question is to give N’Koudou more time to try and realise his clear potential at Spurs but personally I would have loved to see N’Jie on the bench instead of Sissoko to either give another speedy option on the wings or as a striker as Sissoko seems to contribute nothing when he appears in the Spurs shirt. Sadly, Marseille’s insistence of N’jie being part of the N’Koudou deal and the apparent likeliness that they will activate the clause in the loan deal means it looks like an unlikely prospect in the future.
Watch this fantastic fan video of Christian Eriksen’s goal against Swansea – absolute scenes!!
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