Tottenham Hotspur are set to reignite their interest in forward Andre Gray. The Burnley man was reportedly on the club’s radar in the summer after missing out on Michy Batshuayi but baulked at the £30million price tag that the Clarets slapped on him.
However, a year is a long time in football. The 25-year-old’s deal expires in the summer of 2018 and Burnley are likely to be forced to cash in on their prized asset. Spurs, who are notorious for being savvy in the market, could capitalise on this to land a long-term target for almost half price.
Mauricio Pochettino is looking to strengthen his squad ahead of a potential second successive campaign in the Champions League and claim he has told chairman Daniel Levy that he needs reinforcements this summer if he’s to keep Spurs competitive. Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Gray are all players mentioned in the report.
— Talking THFC (@TalkingTHFC) March 1, 2017
While shopping at the likes of Burnley may not be what fans expected after qualifying for the Europe’s elite competition, it’s more about suitability as opposed to reputation. Gray is by no means a world beater and he’s not going to be keeping Harry Kane on the bench but as a supplement to the Spurs number 10, he could well be a shrewd signing.
First off, the reported fee of £15million is next-to-nothing in the modern game. Since the new TV deal came into play It's what Premier League clubs now pay for squad players. The former Brentford man reportedly pockets £18,000-per-week meaning Spurs could double, or even treble, his salary and not break the bank. It's a potential deal which not only makes sense in terms of playing style but it makes business sense too.
The former Brentford striker is enjoying himself in the Premier League. He has six goals to his name this season, including one at the Emirates and one against Liverpool, and he's chipped in with a further two assists.
The Harry Kane Factor
When looking at potential strikers for Spurs you need to take into account the importance of their star-man. Kane is a goalscorer supreme but what he offers to the team is much more than that. The North London side have been rampant lately and while he's frequently on the scoresheet, it's his hold-up play and his interaction with the supporting midfielders which should be admired.
It's a two-way street. Kane needs runners and movement in and around him to be at his influential best and Spurs need the striker to bring those supporting him into play as shown in the pictures below.
Kane isn't the most aerially dominant but he does win roughly two headers per 90 minutes. Hugo Lloris punts the ball long and Kane drops deep to win the flick-on. Dele Alli has made the run from a midfield area to get beyond the striker but the Gent defender is able to clear.
However, the game of head tennis which ensues results in Spurs ending up with the ball deep in the away side's half with players in support.
This time around it's a picture from the match against Liverpool. It's another long ball, something Spurs aren't afraid to do, which Kane wins in the air and manages to flick on for the supporting Heung-Min Son.
The South Korean started the match on the left-wing but a switch to the formation saw him play alongside Kane in attack. It's simplistic and basic but it works. This move results in Pochettino's team winning a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area after Son is fouled.
Not an aerial duel this time but same sort of scenario. A ball is played from a deep are to the Spurs striker and he manages to bring it under his spell despite having three players in close proximity. He could pass the ball backwards but the run from Christian Eriksen allows him to play a ball forward and create a chance for his side.
Why Gray would complement Kane
For the most part, Burnley play a 4-4-2 formation. They have at times dabbled with a 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1 variation but according to Who Scored Sean Dyche has used the former set-up on 17 occasions this season. Spurs have a different starting shape but in many ways the systems are similar.
Gray is used to playing alongside one of Sam Vokes or Ashley Barnes in attack and his task is to play on the shoulder of the last man. In a throwback to the little and large partnerships of the 1990's, Gray is the little one. The aerial duels won stat paints a picture – Vokes win 5.5 and Barnes 4.1 aerial duels per 90 minutes whereas Gray wins just the 0.1.
In a sense he's the Dele Alli of their team looking to act as the support striker.
In the pictures above, taken from the Burnley match against Leicester City, you see similarities between Alli and Gray in terms of off the ball movement. As soon as the ball is played long the striker is on his bike anticipating the flick-on. He's quick and he's got space to attack so more often than not it's the perfect storm in terms of him being able to showcase his strengths.
There's no reason he wouldn't be able to replicate this style with Spurs alongside Kane. He could be the perfect foil for him. They tried it with summer signing Vincent Janssen but the dynamic just wasn't right.
Gray isn't just the legs man. He's capable of holding the ball up and bringing others into play. In the pictures above, against league leaders Chelsea, he drops into a wide area and drags Gary Cahill out with him. He holds off the former Bolton Wanderers player and draws another of the opposition players to him before playing a pass into the space he had created for one of the on-rushing midfielders.
It's a signing which would give Pochettino a host of options moving forward. He could play a diamond formation with the pair upfront, the 3-5-2 formation with allows Danny Rose and Kyle Walker the freedom of the flanks or even a 4-2-3-1 system with Kane as the supporting striker/number 10.
It could be the most feared partnership involving Kane since he teamed with the Undertaker.