With Inter Milan continuing to circle around Mousa Dembele, and the Belgian looking increasingly set to leave north London this summer, Mauricio Pochettino is stepping up his efforts to sign a long-term successor to the uniquely talented central midfielder.
You can read RealSport’s analysis of Tottenham’s central midfield targets HERE.
With names such as Mateo Kovacic, Tanguy Ndombele and Mario Lemina already linked, the latest to appear on Pochettino’s continental manhunt is Morgan Sanson, as per France Football.
The Marseille midfielder is currently valued at £16 million by Transfermarkt and joined the beaten Europa League finalists in the summer of 2017 for £9 million.
RealSport profile the player in light of the recent links to Tottenham.
A versatile midfielder
Sanson has the capabilities to play vertically through the midfield, either defensively, centrally or more advanced behind the striker. It was here he played a majority of his games for Marseille.
The 23-year-old, for example, scored nine goals in Ligue 1 in 2017/18, which suggests that he’s more of a goal-threat than Dembele, but over half of his goals (5) came from an attacking midfield position.
With the likes of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen already competing for the spot behind Harry Kane, it’s unlikely Sanson would see much game time in an advanced position.
What’s salient is that Sanson is clearly a versatile midfielder, a trait highly cherished by Pochettino. The Argentine prefers when his players are capable of playing in more than one position, hence his initial interest in Sanson.
Style of play
Sanson’s goal-scoring record suggests that he’s a goal threat from midfield and is a competent finisher, but in a Dembele replacement, Pochettino is searching for ball retention, ball progression, press resistance and defensive work rate.
In terms of ball retention, Sanson is an able passer of the ball and can play it short, opting for the safe option and tidy one-touch lay-offs, denoted by his 83% passing accuracy. He’s also very two-footed, an advantage in this position.
However, he lost the ball more often (1.8/game) than Dembele (1.2/game) and recorded more instances of poor control (2.2/game) than the Tottenham midfielder (0.9/game).
Nonetheless, the fact that he created 33 chances -over double that of Dembele (16)- suggests that he's not afraid of playing a riskier pass -and has the vision to do so-, explaining the fact that he lost the ball more frequently.
KEY STAT: Sanson led the way in assists in the 2016/17 Ligue 1 with 14.
Although Sanson is perhaps more sloppy than Dembele, he provides a creative presence from deep, something currently lacking in this Tottenham side. Sloppiness, moreover, is something that can be eradicated from his game over time.
Like the Belgian, Sanson contributes to the defence in a manner that would impress Pochettino.
He completed more tackles (40) than Dembele and only eight fewer interceptions (24), demonstrating positional awareness, strength and work rate.
With Marseille missing out on Champions League football and Tottenham now qualifying for the third season running, coupled with Pochettino's declaration that he's staying at the club, the Lilywhites have a very real chance of signing Sanson.
Especially as neither Arsenal nor Chelsea have Champions League football next season.
In terms of the player, Spurs would be ideal for him to continue his rapid progression given the Argentine's record with youth development.
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