Tottenham Hotspur were set for phase two of their squad rebuild this summer.
Having spent big in 2019 to bring in Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon, they now need to make huge improvements on poor defence.
Spurs are hugely unbalanced with their backline now aging rapidly, inexperienced or, in some cases, just error prone.
Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen look set to leave, while Toby Alderweireld was handed a new contract suggesting he will form part of the defensive unit next term.
Davinson Sanchez has yet to kick on since signing from Ajax, Juan Foyth is seemingly out of favour, while Ben Davies appears to be loved by Jose Mourinho but many supporters doubt his ability to star in a team competing for a place in the top four.
And then there is Serge Aurier, the biggest conundrum of all.
The Ivorian has actually had a good 2019/20 season, one of the Premier League’s better performing right-backs.
Six assists in domestic and Champions League action is certainly impressive, while he’s also averaging 3.5 tackles per game in the English top flight and 1.7 interceptions.
He’s undoubtedly producing some fine numbers but he also has the propensity to drop a clanger. His errors against Liverpool and Chelsea cost Tottenham dearly this campaign, while a red card against Southampton left them to struggle for 60 minutes with 10 men prior to their 7-2 European hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich.
Jose Mourinho must decide whether he is willing to sacrifice good attacking output for a more solid and unspectacular proposition at right-back.
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Since the arrival of Trent Alexander-Arnold on the scene, more weight has been given to the belief full-back is now one of the key positions in the modern game.
The problem is, there are so many varying styles in the role. Even at Liverpool Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are actually quite different in their skillsets.
Meanwhile, there aren’t actually a huge amount of ‘elite’ quality players there either, with Achraf Hakimi, Ricardo Pereira, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka currently showing the range of approach from modern full-backs.
Paris Saint-German and Belgium star Thomas Meunier has been linked with Spurs on a free transfer, although it’s been claimed a deal is now ‘unlikely’.
The interest, though, may tell us a little about what a replacement for Aurier may look like under Mourinho.
Using data from Smarterscout, who grade attributes out of 100, the signing of Meunier would see Spurs get a player better at recovering the ball and linking play with teammates in the middle third of the pitch.
The Belgian currently defends less than Aurier right now, but the quality of his defensive actions are better. He does though, produce less in the final section of the pitch but, when you have Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi, Angel di Maria, and Neymar ahead of you, it’s not really needed.
But, with Meunier now possibly off the table for Tottenham, who might they be looking at to replace the Ivorian when football gets back under way?
With the help of Smarterscout, we’ve worked out three possibilities, which won’t break the bank in tough financial times.
Kingsley Ehizibue (FC Koln)
A name only Bundesliga aficionados may have heard, Ehizibue would be a very intriguing addition should Spurs take a look at him.
Born in Germany to Nigerian parents but brought up from the age of two in Zwolle, Netherlands, he’s on a protracted route to the top, aged 24.
He mixes a decent defensive output with good ball carrying, thanks to his dribbling and speed, and will provide more help in the middle of the pitch rather than in the final third like Aurier.
Signing Ehizibue would hand Spurs a 24-year-old with potential to grow, he’ll need to work on his defending but if used like Aurier, effectively a wing-back in a back four, this shouldn’t matter as much, while he could improve his offensive numbers too.
Oh, and while it’s not everything. Ehizibue is also one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga right now – and that’s saying something when you consider it has speedsters like Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, and Timo Werner.
And Tottenham do have a history with quick right-backs, just ask Kyle Walker, DeAndre Yedlin, and Ryan Fredericks.
Kenny Tete (Lyon)
The one caveat to this is the fact he’s not played as many minutes as Aurier this season but there is definitely some potential with the ex-Ajax star.
He’s got a comparable attacking output, while the quality of his his defending and ball retention is better than the Ivorian he could be replacing.
Current reports suggest Rennes are keen on the Dutch international as they wish to have him as a replacement for Hamari Traore, who himself seems set for a big transfer.
But if Spurs, with their formidable clout, could swoop, it’s unlikely they will be disappointed. At the worst they will have a viable second option in a role they have had issues with this season.
Mehmet Zeki Celik (Lille)
When the French side pick up a young talent, you should probably keep an eye on them.
Last season, Nicolas Pepe and Rafael Leao were the big movers, while the likes of Jonathan Bamba, Jonathan Ikone, Boubakary Soumare, Gabriel, and Mike Maignon are all stars who could soon be on the move.
Celik is another man for that list and while he’s not the full package, mainly due to his weaknesses aerially, he’s certainly a possibility Spurs may want to consider.
His link up play certainly looks up to the required standard but would Mourinho sanction a deal for a player with such a weakness in the air?
Overall, these are three prospects who could help Spurs in the long-term if they’re needing to handle things on a budget.
It may, perhaps, work a little better if one was brought in as an understudy to Aurier and given the chance to progress underneath Mourinho, while featuring in cup clashes and in Premier League rotation.
They are cost effective and have room to improve before any kind of peak in their performance, while even if they don’t perform wonders in N17, they should hold a good sell-on value.