Whether it’s Liverpool replacing Loris Karius with Alisson or Chelsea signing Diego Costa, some deals just make teams the finished article, ready to properly compete for major honours.
Make no mistake about it, Tottenham aren’t one piece away from completing their puzzle. If anything, pieces have been stuck in the wrong places and they’ll need to realise that soon and start rearranging everything.
Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez during the Champions League clash with RB Leipzig
But one thing that has been missing since the glorious partnership of Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele sadly dissipated is a consistent defensive midfield presence.
Ah, such heady 2016/17 memories. What a time.
And while a move for Southampton midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg would hardly be seen as the transfer of the window, it’d undoubtedly be a shrewd deal for Tottenham to pull off. Furthermore, it stinks of the exact kind of deal Jose Mourinho would want to make.
Hojbjerg up against Tottenham’s Dele Alli
What Spurs evidently lack in central midfield is a proven ball-winner. Someone who can anticipate interceptions and get attacking transitions moving quickly. Their lack of a such a player was evident in their two most recent pre-lockdown games, against Burnley and RB Leipzig.
At Turf Moor, Oliver Skipp partnered Tanguy Ndombele, and in Germany Harry Winks started alongside Giovani Lo Celso. All perfectly grand players in their own right, but none can claim to have incredible defensive attributes. Each are progressive players who need that added layer of protection.
And that’s where Hojbjerg would come in. The transfer wouldn’t send Twitter into meltdown, but over time he would serve a function that simply isn’t being served in Tottenham’s team right now.
Hojbjerg celebrates at Brighton
Defensively, Spurs are a mess. There’s no argument there. Davinson Sanchez will need to up his game, while Toby Alderweireld has been brutally exposed at this times this season without protection, with his declining speed there to be seen when defending in wide channels.
But so often Tottenham’s centre backs are left in hero-or-zero situations. Situations where all opposition attackers need is a little bit of composure to score. And, in recent times, that’s what’s happened. You have to go back to February for the last time Spurs kept a clean sheet, and even in that 2-0 win against Manchester City, they should have shipped about five goals.
In the eight games in all competitions since that win over City, 15 goals have been conceded. That, for a team supposedly chasing Champions League qualification, is dismal.
Alli looking just a little bit dejected against Wolves | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images
But this is where Hojbjerg would come in. By having that sitting presence that has been so sorely missed over the past few seasons, Spurs would not only have an added shield to protect their worrisome defence, but it’d also allow the more attacking-minded ball-carriers – like Lo Celso, Winks, Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko – the opportunity to use the forwards in more threatening situations.
Son Heung-min has shown he can be devastating on the counter attack – see his goals against Burnley and Aston Villa as the prime examples – and Harry Kane is easily capable of picking out his teammates with inch-perfect passes when the opportunity arrises.
There’d also be less pressure on someone like Lo Celso to be the side’s prime defensive force. While he’s been good this season, his strengths evidently lie in the attacking third, where he was so effective for Real Betis in 2018/19. We might even see more of Ndombele’s talents if the move did go ahead.
Hojbjerg after Southampton won at Leicester
In this age of stats and goals and assists, Hojbjerg obviously doesn’t hold up, with just the one assist in 28 Premier League games for Southampton this season. But that kind of contribution isn’t why Fabinho is so highly rated in world football. He’s highly rated because he’s a fabulous footballer, yes, but also because he gives Liverpool the platform they need by winning the ball consistently, and gives stars like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane the chance to do damage on the counter.
The success of one transfer evidently doesn’t make another a sure-fire win, but the defensive midfield area is one which Tottenham have needed to address for a long time, and, at just 24, Hojbjerg could fill it effectively for years to come.