Tottenham have a different philosophy than their Premier League rivals. Instead of spending big and constantly bringing in high-profile signings, Mauricio Pochettino prefers to focus on developing his players and giving opportunities to youth.
Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is one of those poised on the edge of the first team, and he has the potential to bring something new to the side…
After a 2016/17 Premier League campaign full of emotions due to the inevitable farewell to White Hart Lane, Mauricio Pochettino’s men gained a prestigious Champions League spot, silencing the critics once again, and they played some exhilarating and effective football along the way. After falling just short of fierce rivals Chelsea, the Lilywhites look to go all the way next year and clinch Premier League glory, after finishing third and second in successive seasons.
With teams across the country looking to bolster their squads, it is undeniable that the league’s best are taking full advantage of the transfer window as the anticipation continues to increase prior to the start of the new Premier League season. Pochettino has already elaborated on Tottenham’s transfer policy, hinting the possibility of new arrivals to the squad, but also touched upon his confidence and belief in his current set of players.
The North Londoners are the only side in England’s top flight to yet make a signing, as they look to carry on the philosophy Pochettino integrated within Tottenham Hotspur, to provide the talented youth with a chance to prove themselves. Spurs will also welcome back the presence of Erik Lamela after his lengthy hip injury, which sidelined him for the majority of last season. They’re also hopeful that last year’s additions can serve a bigger impact, and Georges Kevin N’Koudou is one of those that Tottenham fans will be looking for to provide a spark.
Being released from Paris Saint-Germain’s academy at the age of 15 must have been difficult to take after growing up from the suburbs of the city, but N’Koudou had to pick himself up and find a destination to continue his footballing career. The winger was quickly pursued by fellow Ligue 1 side FC Nantes, who had a reputation for developing French talent, Dimitri Payet being one Nantes product that springs to mind. Georges was first placed in their ever-growing youth setup, with manager Phillipe Anziani seeing heaps of potential in this exciting prospect. Continuing to impress for his side, N’Koudou gradually emerged through the youth team and was promoted to the first team squad, looking to blossom in a young, talented Nantes team.
N’Koudou made his Ligue 1 debut on the opening game of the 2013/14 season against SC Bastia, coming on as a substitute during the later stages of the match. His 3 goals in 40 appearances did not justify his performances during his period in Nantes, as his pace and willingness to get at defenders were beneficial to Anziani’s counter-attack heavy play style, and N’Koudou started to catch the eye of scouts across the country. The youngster made 16 starts and 12 substitute appearances in his last season at Nantes, scoring twice and claiming an assist to his name, as Nantes finished in a respectable 14th place in the table. With a flurry of successful performances, N’Koudou made the step up to the France U21 side, previously featuring in the U17’s, U19’s and U20’s.
His youthful promise attracted interest from many clubs in France, as French giants Marseille agreed a deal in the region of £1m to take him to the Stade Velodrome in June 2015. Manager Marcelo Bielsa departed from the club just two months later and Marseille dropped down to 14th, but the N’Koudou’s contributions were a breath of fresh air for the fans despite the team’s poor season.
With Dimitri Payet sold to West Ham, N’Koudou was gifted with more game time and became a starter on Marseille’s left flank, providing a strong combination with hitman Michy Batshuayi. This partnership brought the best out of the winger, and he addressed his lack of goals from previous years and contributed 10 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions with good performances to back it up. During this time, the small fee of £1m that The Olympians paid for the 22-year-old looked to be an absolute steal.
On 31 August 2016, N’Koudou was transferred to Spurs for a reported fee of £11m, signing a five-year deal with the London-based club.
What Can We Expect Next Year?
The demolition of Tottenham’s White Hart Lane has been completed, and the Lilywhites will play all their home games at Wembley Stadium next season, which hasn’t done them any favours recently. Wembley’s pitch is known for being slightly bigger than that of other stadiums around the country, in fact, it’s noted 105m long and 69m wide, which is considerably larger than White Hart Lane’s, which was only 100m long and 67m wide. This difference is greater than you might think, and the spacious pitch will be beneficial for players like N’Koudou and Heung-Min Son, giving them the license to exploit the space and run at defenders.
It goes without saying that the agility and dribbling he possesses are his best attributes, as only six players in Ligue 1 averaged more successful dribbles per game (DPG) than N’Koudou (2.3) in the 2015/16 season. Now that defences will be much more spaced out playing at Wembley, it will isolate N’Koudou and his defender in one-on-one situations, which is exactly what he thrives off. He has justified this and showed glimmers of hope to Spurs fans in their US Tour in pre-season, coming out on top against Dani Alves and not being intimidated by the Brazilian’s elite defensive capabilities.
Being comfortable on either foot provides a sense of unpredictability to his game, meaning opponents can never be sure whether he will charge down the flank to cross, or cut inside to go for goal himself, which he has equipped in his repertoire. His impressive ratio of a goal every four games at Marseille highlights his attacking threat, accompanied by his confidence in and around the box.
What Role Will He Fulfill Next Season?
The dynamic front three of Alli, Kane and Eriksen is arguably the best in the league, scoring the most goals in the Premier League last season, topped off by Kane’s impressive second consecutive golden boot. The formation (3-4-2-1) allows Alli and Eriksen to operate in the space around them and feed Kane who will undoubtedly dispatch chances created for him, but the flexibility in this Tottenham squad is very unique. Pochettino has the freedom to interchange formations each week, and even during games. He performs this maneuver to capitalize on teams’ weaknesses, which proved to be significant last year, as his men gained their highest points total in the club’s history.
The alternative formation (4-2-3-1) will suit N’Koudou’s playstyle because his best traits will be utilized more effectively on the offensive end. His pace will be dangerous on the counter-attack, whilst his quick feet and acceleration allow him to beat defenders from a standing position. If you put all these factors into place, and think of Danny Rose providing a constant option for an overlap, it has the potential to wreck havoc upon any defence.
N’Koudou would be an ideal impact substitute for Mauricio to bring off the bench during later periods of the match. His energy and assertiveness with the ball at his feet adds a whole different dimension to Tottenham’s game. He will be able to exploit defenders when they’re fatigued and create chances for the abundantly talented attacking players. In 2015, N’Koudou created 25 chances and made 22 key passes, portraying his attacking threat on either wing.
Here is a great example of N’Koudou doing what he does best, and if he can work on his end product and consistently deliver dangerous crosses into the area, it’s without a doubt that Harry Kane will be loitering around to finish them. Overall, I think N’Koudou deserves a chance in Pochettino’s plans for the future, because once he has fully adapted to the fast pace of the Premier League, he will become an influential figure to the Spurs front line.