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Goretzka: A Natural Replacement For Dembele At Spurs

 • by Matt Gault
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Tottenham Hotspur have arguably the most versatile and dynamic midfield in the Premier League. Between the imposing power of Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembélé and Moussa Sissoko, the craft of Christian Eriksen and the exciting glimpse into Spurs’ future in the shape of Dele Alli and Harry Winks, Mauricio Pochettino has plenty to play with.

As you’d expect, the competition for places at Wembley is fierce. In recent weeks, Winks has established himself as a regular starter, while Pochettino has also brought Sissoko in from the cold after falling down the pecking order last season.

With Wanyama nearing a return, the battle for a starting berth in Pochettino’s preferred system of 3-4-2-1 will only intensify. Yet despite such enviable depth, Spurs have been heavily linked with a move for promising Schalke youngster Leon Goretzka.

The Liverpool transfer target, who is also on the radars of Barcelona and Juventus, is tipped for a big future and it looks as though the Premier League will feature in that future after Oliver Bierhoff let slip that Goretzka is headed for England.

Bierhoff, via The Guardian, said: “We feel that England, because of the amount of money you have with TV rights, young talented players like Leroy Sané and [Schalke’s] Leon Goretzka are moving to England and this is not good for our league but also for the quality of our game.”

Although Bierhoff has since, via journalist Raphael Honigstein, clarified his remarks by saying he was talking about a ‘hypothetical’ move for Goretzka, it has still fuelled speculation.

And with Spurs reportedly very much in the running, it’s worth looking at how he would fit in at the club and what his arrival could mean for some of their midfielders.

The Spurs Midfield Situation

The 22-year-old is viewed as an ideal replacement for Emre Can at Anfield. The German has yet to sign a new deal with the Reds amid Juventus transfer rumours and Goretzka could be the perfect candidate to succeed the former Bayer Leverkusen man in Jürgen Klopp‘s midfield.

Spurs have a similar problem. Dier is a Manchester United transfer target and, while his future remains unclear, it’s understandable that Pochettino and the club’s hierarchy are shopping for a potential replacement, should the England international depart.

On top of that, there are concerns over Dembélé’s persistent injury woes. If Dier leaves in the summer and the powerful Belgian, who will be 31 in July, struggles to maintain his fitness, it would leave Pochettino with just Wanyama, Sissoko and Winks as the options for the two deeper midfield roles. For a team with ambitions of winning the Premier League title and at least reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, that may not be sufficient.

Goretzka reportedly prefers a move to Barcelona but breaking into the Spurs midfield may happen quicker, with Ivan Rakitić, Andrés Iniesta, Paulinho and Sergio Busquets already firmly established at the Camp Nou.

Would He Suit Spurs’ Style?

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Goretzka looks like a natural long-term replacement for Dembélé. A tall, rangy midfielder with plenty of power and mobility, he would certainly offer Spurs a solid and dependable option in midfield.

At 6ft 2in, Goretzka is physically imposing but he does not lack pace and his long strides allow him to beat players in a way not too dissimilar to Manchester United‘s Nemanja Matić. Goretzka also boasts excellent close control and can deliver a killer pass, too. His average of 75 per cent passing accuracy is not to be sniffed at, while he is not afraid of roaming forward to influence the game in an attacking sense.

Indeed, Goretzka – who often moves forward while former Spurs midfielder Nabil Bentaleb sits deeper – has scored four goals in nine Bundesliga games this season. He also averages 0.7 key passes per game and is fouled more than any other Schalke player, an average 2.4 per game. This suggests that he is an astute user of the ball, a midfielder who knows how to shield possession and draw fouls from the opposition.

But he would certainly bring a sense of excitement to Spurs’ midfield, too. His eye for goal is impressive – as is the type of goals he scores. His second goal for Schalke this season was a tremendous 25-yard free-kick with his right foot against Leverkusen, after scoring a left-footed effort against Werder Bremen two weeks earlier.

His most recent effort was a sublime finish, driving through the Mainz defence before deftly lifting the ball over Rene Adler’s head. It was a sign both of Goretzka’s soaring confidence and his sure touch in front of goal. He has become renowned for making marauding runs from deep, a move which causes problems for defences and allows him to get into these positions to score.

Concerning the defensive side of the game, Goretzka is also impressive, averaging 2.6 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game. Although he is an effective presence in the final third, he does not shy away from the combative side of his duties. His tackle and interception averages eclipse Dembélé’s stats from last season,  so it’s clear to see why Pochettino would be interested in such a rounded player.

For Schalke, Goretzka has occupied different roles in midfield, including screening the defence and playing in a slightly advanced position, with Bentaleb behind him and fellow Tottenham transfer target Max Meyer the furthest forward.

The problem is the competition. With Liverpool, Juventus and Barcelona all interested, Goretzka’s future is likely to be one of the most frequently discussed in the coming months. His contract at the Veltins-Arena expires at the end of the season and he is free to agree a pre-contract deal with clubs in January, so his next destination may be determined in the winter window.

Given the incontrovertible evidence of his rising status, Spurs should do everything possible to make him their next signing.

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