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Should Tottenham consider Doucoure as Dembele replacement?

13:50 GMT 15/01/2019
Abdoulaye Doucoure Watford
The Watford midfielder is keen for a change of scene, and Spurs could be the beneficiaries


Abdoulaye Doucoure has made no secret of his desire to move on from Watford, and Tottenham Hotspur ought to be casting an eye over a midfielder who could represent an ideal long-term replacement for Mousa Dembele.

Speaking to Canal+, Doucoure, who is eligible for Mali, has revealed that he’s in “consultation with the [Watford] board” as he looks to engineer a move away from Vicarage Road.

The midfielder’s motivation appears to be international recognition, as the 26-year-old appears to believe that in order “to progress” and to “get closer to the France national team” he most seek a future away from Hertfordshire.

At the time of writing, it appears likely that Serie A will be his destination, even though the former Stade Rennais man hasn’t closed the door to a move to another Premier League side.

Champions League football—something he’s unlikely to ever experience at Watford—also appears to be a motivating factor for an exit.

“If nothing happens this winter, we’ll examine the possibilities that we’re offered this summer,” he added, as per France Football.

“The club are aware of my ambitions, and they also want to help me step up a level.”
Doucoure would represent a major loss for the Hornets, even if he hasn’t quite reached last year’s heights yet this term.

He scored seven goals for Watford last term, but has only struck three in his 22 outings so far.

Nonetheless, his creativity has improved, with the midfielder already beating last year’s tally of three assists with five.

His passing has seen a slight decrease, with a 82.2% success rate compared to last year’s 83.6, although he still averages 1.1 chance created and 1.2 aerial battles won per match, the same as he managed last term.

Defensively, he’s in the Prem’s Top 40 effective tacklers, averaging 2.1 per match.

Considering Watford’s significant turnover of players, and a revolving-door policy to recruitment, the club have had their fair share of transfer duds in recent years.

Doucoure, who joined from Rennes in February 2016, originally appeared destined to join this anonymous cabal after being immediately sent out on loan to Granada.

However, he thrived under Marco Silva, delivering a series of commanding performances in the heart of the manager’s 4-3-3 formation.

While his physique and height helps him protect the backline and dominate opposition midfielders, he’s much more than a mere one-dimensional destroyer.

He carries the ball well, and has averaged more passes per match (52.9) than any other Watford player this term.

In November, the Mirror revealed that Spurs were weighing up a £35 million move for the enforcer, and his recent comments should compel the Londoners to make a formal approach for Doucoure.

Certainly, they could do with his qualities to boost an area that was becoming a concern for Spurs even before Moussa Sissoko limped off against Manchester United at the weekend.

Victor Wanyama is yet to return to anything close to the form he enjoyed during his maiden season at the club, and has been limited to just 147 minutes of Premier League action so far this term.

Eric Dier has also struggled with injury, and while Harry Winks continues to improve, he’s an effective water-carrier but unlikely to offer too much in the final third.

The biggest concern, perhaps, is Dembele.

At 31, the Belgium international doesn’t have age on his side, while his fitness—already a concern in seasons gone by—is becoming increasingly restrictive.

He’s managed just 10 Premier League appearances—seven of which have been starts—so far this season, and monstrous performances—such as the kind he delivered against Real Madrid last term—are becoming increasingly few and far between.

Doucoure, who’d also be eligible for the Champions League knockout rounds, would represent a Premier League-ready replacement for Dembele, while the club could offer the Franco-Malian powerhouse the platform he craves.

Unlike players such as Geoffrey Kondogbia, Franck Kessie or Tanguy NDombele, all of whom have been mooted as potential Wanyama/Dembele replacements, Doucoure has already adapted to english football and demonstrated his class in the top flight.

He’d be a significant upgrade on some of Spurs’ current options, and his ability to occupy both a defensive or creative brief would surely appeal to Mauricio Pochettino.

While there’s been reported interest from Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain, neither club would represent a guarantee of first-team football for Doucoure, unlike at Spurs, where he’d surely be a starter week in, week out.

It’s a move that would suit all parties, and could give Tottenham the kind of authority in midfield that they’ve lacked in some of the biggest games of the season so far.