Tottenham Hotspur have been in fine fettle this season and Ange Postecoglou will be delighted that just one defeat from six Premier League outings has thrust his side back into the mix for Champions League qualification.
A rough patch across November and December had ravaged a stunning start to the campaign but, all-in-all, Spurs supporters will be delighted with the improvements made under their Australian manager’s guidance, having languished to an eighth-placed finish last season.
The crux of their problems last year lay in the shoddy defence, with Spurs shipping a staggering 63 goals in the top-flight – with only the relegated trio and newly-promoted sides Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest conceding more.
Micky van de Ven was signed in the summer and Destiny Udogie – who completed an initial £15m transfer from Udinese a year prior – finally made his entrance after spending the 2022/23 campaign on loan with his former club.
Postecoglou is meticulously reshaping his backline and has now welcomed Radu Dragusin to the fold at the term’s midpoint, with Eric Dier – who has been branded a “liability” by writer Mitch Fretton in the past – recently sold to Bayern Munich.
There’s room for one more player to fortify the rearguard and while it’s unlikely that a move will be made this month, a former top target could find themselves moving to north London come summer.
Spurs eyeing another defender
According to transfer specialist Fabrizio Romano, who was speaking to GIVEMESPORT, Tottenham are still in the mix for AFC Bournemouth defender Lloyd Kelly, with further interest from England and Serie A sides AC Milan and Juventus also eyeing a swoop.
The 25-year-old has been excellent on the south coast over the past several years but is out of contract at the end of the campaign and now looks increasingly likely to see his deal out.
Spurs failed with a £20m approach at the start of the season and will hope that the previous groundwork swings the odds in their favour, warding off the attention from some of Europe’s top outfits.
Lloyd Kelly’s style of play
Crucially, Kelly is a left-footed, left-sided defender and thus fits the profile of player that Postecoglou is searching for to complete his backline.
Romania international Dragusin – who joined from Genoa for £27m one week ago – is adept on each side of the central defence and is regarded for his aggression and command, but he is not a ball-playing defender.
Kelly, however, is a resourceful distributor while still a “monster” in the tackle – as has been said in the past by journalist Jacob Tanswell – and would provide the balance that would ensure that Postecoglou’s project has a multi-angled shape in front of Guglielmo Vicario’s goal.
While the £30k-per-week ace has been injured for the past few months, starting only eight times in the Premier League this season, he did manage to showcase some of his brightest qualities on the pitch, averaging 6.2 ball recoveries per game, winning 55% of his ground duels and succeeding with 100% of his dribbles, as per Sofascore.
As per FBref, the 6 foot titan also ranks among the top 1% of positional peers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for clearances, highlighting his energy and driven approach to sweeping away danger.
Lloyd Kelly: Similar PL Players
*Sourced via Football Transfers
Looking at the table above, it’s clear to see that the Cherries player is considered among some of English football’s finest ball-playing centre-backs, and with Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez the most comparable player, perhaps his signature would be worth snapping up.
The Red Devils completed the signing of Martinez from Ajax for £57m in July 2022 and he swiftly asserted himself as one of the most ferocious players on English shores, praised as an “animal” by his compatriot Emi Martinez.
While United have been out of sorts this season, Martinez has spent the majority of the action on the sidelines and his presence has been missed.
Last season, he won 100% of his dribbles and 65% of his ground duels in the top flight, with similar prowess in progression to Kelly.
Nonetheless, he ranks among the top 4% of centre-backs for successful take-ons and the top 6% for tackles per 90, and given that Kelly is also capable of producing ‘monster’ performances, the likeness is only illuminated further.
How Lloyd Kelly would fit in with Spurs
Once described as a “Rolls-Royce” by former Bournemouth manager and Spurs defender Jonathan Woodgate, Kelly would provide Postecoglou with cover for Van de Ven and Udogie, with the dynamo at ease on the defensive flank and often utilised at left-back at the Vitality Stadium.
The London club are working feverishly to improve the squad in the transfer market.
It’s worth noting that Tottenham’s lowly league finish last year has resulted in an absence from European competition for the maiden term of Postecoglou’s tenure, and the fragility that has been evidenced by Van de Ven and Cristian Romero’s absences over the past few months would have had far more dire consequences with the added strain of midweek football on the continent.
Of course, the Lilywhites are expecting to finish high this time around and return to Champions League or Europa League nights, and Kelly’s involvement will be crucial in this regard, helping to juggle the multitude of fronts.
As mentioned earlier, he also offers a different style to that of Dragusin and this is likely a conscious effort from Postecoglou, maintaining the fluency of his squad.
Tottenham have clearly done their homework on the player and could now advance discussions to snap him up on a free transfer at the end of the campaign, and full focus must be fixed on getting a deal over the line.