At White Hart Lane, it appears to be a case of out with the old and in with the new. Roberto Soldado’s ill-fated adventure in the Premier League appears to be at an end with Clinton N’Jié close to finalizing his move from Lyon to the North London club.
On the face of it, the transfer seems to make sense for everyone involved. From Spurs’ point of view, they will be bringing in a replacement for the underwhelming Soldado. Moreover, if the 22-year old N’Jié can develop and realize his undoubted potential, Tottenham will possess one of the more dangerous forwards in the Premier League.
Lyon have boosted their attacking options this season by signing Claudio Beauvue from Guingamp as well as the diminutive Mathieu Valbuena from Dynamo Moscow. Add to that the fact that Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir have pledged their immediate futures to the club, Les Gones possess an enviable number of attacking talents.
In that sense, something had to give and with the club’s President Jean-Michel Aulas reluctant to sell Lyon’s prized assets, Lacazette and Fekir, the decision to offload N’Jié makes sense. The deal with Tottenham is worth a reported £10 million, which would cover the cost of a number of Lyon’s summer recruits representing a tidy piece of business for Aulas and company.
As for N’Jié himself, he has the opportunity to play in the Premier League for a Spurs side who could do with an attacker of his versatility. Arguably, he has a better chance of starting for Spurs this season than at Lyon.
So what does the Cameroonian forward bring to the table? First and foremost N’Jié has a quality that scares any defender — out-and-out pace. N’Jié is frighteningly quick and can hurt any team that opts to play with a high line. Similarly, he has the ability to lead lightning quick counters. If he is given space (and he’s good at finding it), N’Jié will punish teams.
Looking at his statistics last season, N’Jié played 30 games for Lyon last season. He started 15 of those, and came on as a substitute for the other half. In those matches he scored seven goals and set-up a further seven. Not a bad haul given the amount of playing time he had over the course of the season.
The question has to be asked why did he not feature more often in the starting line-up for Les Gones? The prolific form of Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir was a major factor in seeing N’Jié spend a big chunk of the season on the bench. The pair had outstanding campaigns for Lyon last season and not surprisingly were automatic starters when fit.
Given that Lyon coach, Hubert Fournier, generally opted to play a 4-4-2 diamond N’Jié had to vie for the last attacking spot with the likes of Mohamed Yattara, Steed Malbranque, Yoann Gourcuff and to a lesser degree Yassine Benzia. Of the attacking options listed above, Fournier’s preferred choice, when fit, was Gourcuff.
SEE MORE: Ligue 1 preview for the 2015/16 season.
In light of that challenge, the fact that N’Jié managed not just to play so regularly but contribute seven goals and assists given the competition for places is a credit to the young Cameroon international. Towards the end of last season he seemed to finally make the breakthrough, starting six of Lyon’s final seven league games.
However with Lyon recruiting Beauvue and Valbuena this season to replace Mohamed Yattara (sold to Standard Liège) and Yoann Gourcuff (released), N’Jiè would have found himself in the same situation as last season, trying to battle for the one attacking slot. The move to White Hart Lane makes sense for him.
N’Jié is not just a speed merchant though. He’s an adaptable forward who can play up top, behind the main striker or in a wide role. N’Jié has already demonstrated his ability to link up intelligently with Fekir and Lacazette, so it’s not really a stretch to imagine him forming a good understanding with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. If N’Jié can quickly adapt to the rigors of the Premier League, then he could alleviate the scoring burden off Harry Kane who scored 36% of Tottenham’s Premier League goals last campaign.
N’Jié’s versatility will no doubt be a benefit for Mauricio Pochettino but the Cameroon international cannot expect to play as the central striker as that’s Kane’s position and is more likely to start in one of the wide roles, if selected, in the three behind the striker should Spurs play a 4-2-3-1.
SEE MORE: Read Tottenham’s 2015/16 season preview.
At Lyon, playing as part of an attacking three in the 4-4-2 diamond, N’Jié wasn’t obliged to defend or track back. In Fournier’s system, the goal was to harness his attacking talents. At Spurs though he will be required to cover his full back, press and react to transitions in play more sharply especially when possession is conceded. He will have to sacrifice himself more for the team in Pochettino’s system so it remains to be seen whether he will be capable of that.
Another potential weakness is his over-reliance on his right foot. French football expert Andrew Gibney pointed out that N’Jié tends to favor his right foot a little too much and that dependency could curtail his attacking effectiveness.
That said, N’Jié comes across as a calm character who is willing to learn and adapt. The striker dubbed the future Eto’o by Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas seems to be a player who isn’t put-off by challenges and is willing to take things as they come. He certainly wasn’t intimidated in his introduction to the international game last September scoring 44-minutes into his debut for Cameroon against the Democratic Republic of Congo before netting a double against the Ivory Coast in a 4-1 win four days later. He has scored six goals in 11 appearances for The Indomitable Lions.
If he can adapt to the Premier League with the same ease, then Spurs do appear to have a genuine attacking talent on their hands. If Pochettino can smooth out the rough edges N’Jié has the ability to excite the fans to live up to the club’s motto To Dare Is To Do.
N’Jié is certainly daring and if he hits his stride is more than capable of doing the business for Spurs.
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