Tottenham are on the verge of completing a move for Wolves defender Matt Doherty in a deal worth up to £16million, according to reports.
Doherty, 28, has been one of Wolves’ best performers since their promotion to the Premier League. He has been fielded in the right wing-back position in Wolves’ preferred three-at-the-back formation and has been an undisputed success.
With Serge Aurier a target for AC Milan and Spurs seemingly willing to let him go, they’re looking to strengthen in defence and have made the Irishman their prime target. With COVID-19 still affecting the transfer market, Spurs may be grabbing a bargain at just £12million up front for Doherty.
However, there are some doubts over a potential move to North London.
As mentioned previously, Doherty has been playing as a wing-back in a system that is designed to get the best from that position. Unless Jose Mourinho is planning something very different to his usual approach, Doherty won’t be given that type of freedom at Tottenham.
Whenever Mourinho fielded Aurier, he was gifted the freedom to roam the entire right flank while Bergwijn or Lucas Moura tucked inside to support Harry Kane up front. Doherty will love that freedom but without three centre-backs to cover for him, Spurs may find themselves short covering counter-attacks. Ben Davies often shifts over to fill in when the right-back goes forward but where Wolves would then become a back five, Spurs become a back three.
Doherty is arguably a better weapon going forward than Aurier and he’s absolutely definitely better defensively, so he’s without doubt an upgrade on the Ivorian. That said, the consensus around this deal seems to be that it will be a resounding success. I have my doubts.
Wolves’ system is certified. Performances rarely drop despite rotation of players and they’re consistent defensively and with their patterns going forward. While they’re better with Doherty, they’re not awful without him. Spurs are getting a better player, but how much he actually changes their fortunes remains to be seen.
It’s a positive step however, as Mourinho looks to strengthen his side and push back into the Champions League places.
Wolves will reportedly move to replace Doherty with Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal, who has decided he needs to leave his boyhood club for regular first-team football. He came through the Arsenal academy as a central midfielder but has seen his best chances at the top level come as a right-back or right wing-back. His versatility makes him an excellent replacement for Doherty, with the Wolves system likely to help him develop and play regularly.
It’s a fun Midlands/North London merry-go-round to kick off the Premier League transfer window this summer and a move that sees the top of the division get even tighter and more competitive.