New Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has denied the need for major signings at Spurs. Citing last season’s example, he has stressed the value of continuity.
Despite that, Spurs have been reliably linked with Real Sociedad and France winger Antoine Griezmann in recent days. The Telegraph suggest that an opening bid of around £15 million has been rejected and that Spurs would have to meet Griezmann’s £24 million release clause. That is a shockingly low figure for a player of Griezmann’s potential.
Twice thrust into the spotlight in the last 12 months, Griezmann led Real Sociedad into the Champions League group stages before making an impact at the World Cup. Franck Ribery’s injury opened a position in Les Bleus’ starting lineup, and his star burned even brighter.
He was quietly impressive at the World Cup and has likely sealed his place in Didier Deschamps’ France squad for the future. He didn’t show his best in Sociedad’s brief Champions League campaign as the team were struggling to recover from losing Asier Illarramendi to Real Madrid. They failed to win a game, scoring just once. Griezmann did score an important goal in the qualification playoff against Olympique Lyon. That goal, an overhead kick from the top of the box, was enough to spark wider European interest.
Griezmann was a relative unknown only a year ago and is now an international star. Following France’s exit from the World Cup, teammate Paul Pogba penned an emotive Facebook post remarking on his rapid rise to stardom.
A player of immense quality, Griezmann is usually deployed as a left winger. But he is not a classic wide-man and plays like something of an old-fashioned inside-left position. This allows him to be a regular goal threat, and his combination with former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela has been particularly effective. Both scored 16 goals in La Liga last season, per WhoScored.com. As Vela dropped deep to pick up the ball, Griezmann moved into a central position to great effect.
Although he lacks the dominant physicality of Cristiano Ronaldo, there is a similarity. His acceleration and change of direction make him a devastating threat both in counter-attacks and in one-on-one situations. He has perfected the "Ronaldo chop" and, like Ronaldo, he has the additional quality of being an aerial threat.
He’s not Ronaldo, but he is a very impressive player and, crucially, would fill a position of need for Spurs. They have lacked pace and penetration in wide areas since the departure of Gareth Bale. Aaron Lennon is simply not a goalscorer, while Erik Lamela’s injury problems kept him from making an impact in his first season in England.
The notion of Griezmann playing opposite Lamela is tantalising. Similar in some ways but ultimately distinctly different wide forwards, Griezmann and Lamela could be a truly devastating pair.
Griezmann would arrive ready to make an immediate impact. He’s not a rough diamond that will need to be gradually incorporated into the team. He is confident, clever and runs with his head up.
The injection of Griezmann would provide the pace that Spurs lacked last season. Nacer Chadli, ostensibly a winger, lacks the kind of penetrative speed that Griezmann possesses.
The major drawback of signing Griezmann, from a tactical perspective, is the lack of width. Griezmann does not stay wide and neither does Lamela. Assuming that Pochettino follows his Southampton model of selecting three central midfielders to support the front three, Spurs could struggle to stretch the opposition.
Pochettino played without genuine wide-men last season, preferring instead to utilise his full-backs to provide width. The potential overload in central areas could work to Spurs’ advantage. Kyle Walker and Ben Davies are both capable of providing the necessary width.
Real Sociedad are not in a position to match Premier League wages and were Spurs to match his release clause, he would surely make the move to North London. Griezmann would provide pace and aggression to Spurs’ forward line. His penetration in wide areas would draw defenders and take the pressure off Roberto Soldado. In combination with Erik Lamela, Spurs would possess a dynamic, young pair of wide attackers.
At £24 million, Griezmann is evidently worth the money. He plays a role that Spurs desperately need to fill and, at 23, he fits Tottenham’s policy of buying young players with sell-on value. This transfer seems like a long shot, but if they can pull it off, Spurs will have significantly improved.