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Tottenham: Why Joao Cancelo can fill the right back void

Just another name on the growing list of Kyle Walker replacements.. Is Joao Cancelo 'the one?'

Mauricio Pochettino has made no secret of his desire to sign a new right back this summer, following the £50 million sale of Kyle Walker to rivals Manchester City, and matters were made worse as current first choice option Kieran Trippier was injured in the final friendly versus Juventus on Saturday.

“He is very young. To give [Walker-Peters] a great responsibility… It’s too much today for him.” –Pochettino on Kyle Walker-Peters’ development.


The Argentine himself stated that academy graduate Kyle Walker-Peters was not yet ready for first team action, so the need to find a right back has just grown increasingly urgent.

First it was Ricardo Pereira, then it became Hoffenheim’s Jeremy Toljan, and the latest is Valencia’s Joao Cancelo. Pochettino is reportedly hoping to make the Portuguese his first summer signing in a £22.5 million deal.

RealSport are looking at whether Cancelo is the right option.

Pochettino’s profile

In many ways, Cancelo fits nicely into Pochettino’s meticulous profile for a new member of his close-knit squad. He’s young at 23 years of age and represents not only a long-term option, but one the Argentine can mould into his own player.

Moreover, Cancelo is versatile enough to play anywhere along the right flank, another attribute Pochettino values highly in a player.

If Spurs were to sign him it would primarily be to rival Trippier at right back, but to have that versatility in the event of a personnel emergency is useful.

Cancelo’s attacking threat

Like Trippier does and Walker did previously, Cancelo provides a consistent attacking threat on the right flank. Here’s how he compares to Trippier and Walker offensively.

Joao CanceloKyle WalkerKieran Trippier
Chances created223912
Successful take-ons63350
Tackles won645313

Last season for Valencia, the 23-year-old created 22 chances, which was more that Trippier (though he did player 13 more games than the Englishman), but 17 less than Walker. However, those chances yielded four assists for Cancelo, only one less than Walker and Trippier.

Moreover, Pochettino likes his wing backs to be adventurous on the ball, confident in attacking down the flank and taking on defenders. Cancelo does just that, completing a massive 63 take-ons in 35 games, nearly double that of Walker. Plus, he has the speed to boot.

Defensive concerns

The issue with Cancelo, though, is that whilst he offers a strong attacking influence down the right, there are question marks over his defensive consistency, as was the case with Walker in fairness.

The Portuguese struggles to defend against the bigger sides in La Liga, similar to Trippier’s struggles with pacey wingers of top six Premier League clubs, which may influence Spurs’ decision to sign him. Perhaps Pochettino would rather someone with a more polished game, particularly in defence.


However, what’s important is that Cancelo was playing in a very unstable Valencia back four, whereas the back three (or four) of Spurs is settled and coherent. Playing in a back three relies on the offensive duties of the wide men, less so their defensive capabilities, and is a system in which Cancelo can thrive.

He will also have Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vergonhen and Eric Dier to support him, arguably three of the best defenders in England.

Despite these concerns, it’s interesting to note that Cancelo won more tackles (64) than Walker (53) and Trippier (13), and made more interceptions (58). This could be explained, though, by the defence-heavy Valencia style of 2016/17.

RealSport verdict: Cancelo fills the void

Ultimately, Spurs couldn’t go wrong with this signing. Valencia are a somewhat cash-strapped club and naturally they’d want to make a small profit on the 15 million they paid for him initially, but Cancelo doesn’t have a massive line of admirers driving the price up.

Furthermore, defensive concerns are negated by his great attacking threat and the fact he’d be part of a back three, as opposed to a flat four.

Lastly, Cancelo is young, versatile and moldable, with a high potential to improve. He’d provide crucial competition for Trippier, which worked wonders for the Englishman last season. With the right coach, the world is Cancelo’s oyster.

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Oli Stein

Football Editor

Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has been RealSport's football editor since September 2016.

He's a Tottenham Hotspur fan first and objective football writer second!

Oli is also a defensive end for American football club the London Blitz, starting his career on the offensive line with his Bristol university team.

Tottenham: Why Joao Cancelo can fill the right back void

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