A two-footed dribbler with pace to burn who can run off the striker, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou will bring some exciting times to Spurs this season.
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou has all the hallmarks of a Paul Mitchell signing. Our departing head of recruitment specialises in unearthing quick wide dribblers that can stretch opposing teams.
At Southampton, Mitchell identified Sadio Mane, Eljero Elia, Dusan Tadic and Shane Long to help their cause on the flanks. For Spurs, his choices of Son Heung-Min, and Clinton N’Jie had varying degrees of success last season.
This term, Mitchell hopes to unearth another gem as Georges-Kevin Nkoudou will aim to bring his exciting skill set to the Premier League.
Two-footedness is a new dimension that Mauricio Pochettino wants to add to the team. Son Heung-Min is equally strong with either foot and so too is new addition Vincent Janssen, but Pochettino wants more.
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou becomes the latest Spurs player that is equally comfortable with both left and right. It makes him hard to guard for defenders, as he is equally capable of hitting the by-line and crossing with his left or cutting back inside to shoot or play a through ball with his right.
The former Marseille man also has pace to burn. He is lightning quick from a standing start and his previous club took advantage of this. They would look to get the ball out to him as they entered the final third, so that Nkoudou could beat his man and initiate attacks.
Nkoudou’s trickery and ability to often go from a standing start saw him do two things. Firstly, it stretched the opposition defence. To contain him, cover was often drawn over. Secondly, it aided them to break multiple lines. Being able to go through the first, and even second line of the opposition’s defence, with just one player causes maximum destruction with minimal resources. His team mates can then get free much easier for him to create high-chance scoring opportunities from pull backs or through balls.
Dribblers that can get motoring quickly to stretch and break opposition lines were Mauricio Pochettino’s desire from transfer deadline day. Moussa Sissoko also arriving means that the manager now has two new options.
Running off the striker
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou isn’t just a stand his man up dribbler. He also has the ability to link with and run off the striker. This is important for Mauricio Pochettino, as he often has our striker come short and look to drag the opposition centre backs with him. This then creates space for others to burst in to beyond.
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou often did this for Marseille, working in tandem with Michy Batshuayi. The centre forward would come short to draw the opposition centre backs up, leaving space for Nkoudou to use his searing speed beyond.
Already having experience of this should help Nkoudou settle in to our system of play much quicker. A real bonus with him is that he rarely strays offside, something that players who operate this way often fall foul of. Nkoudou was caught going too early just 13 times in 28 Ligue 1 games last season, highlighting his good sense of timing.
An ability to press the ball is something Georges-Kevin Nkoudou will also bring. He is very active in looking to hound defenders, strip or recover loose balls.
Marcelo Bielsa is one of Mauricio Pochettino’s biggest influences. Georges-Kevin Nkoudou worked with him for a couple of months before ‘El Loco’ left Marseille, but the influence has remained. “Before attacking, you have to know how to defend well,” Nkoudou said during Bielsa’s tenure. “That is what is asked of us in training: press, press and press.”
Nkoudou certainly has the speed to shut down the opposition quickly, which will serve him well under Pochettino. He also has good stamina to continue making high intensity runs to not give opponents a moment’s respite.
A real upside to Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is just how quickly he has progressed in his career and how coachable he is.
After graduating from Nantes under-19 side he quickly established himself in the first team. Then, a season later, he moved to Marseille and became a regular in a matter of months. He seems to progress much quicker than expected.
The key might just be in how coachable he is and how he listens to instruction. After signing he told the official Spurs website “I listen, that is one of my strengths. If I want to keep making progress, I have to keep listening.”
Coaching, crafting and improving young players is what Mauricio Pochettino does best. Having a young, malleable talent that can be weaved in to the system wouldn’t have gone unnoticed when scouting him.
Concerns about Georges-Kevin Nkoudou
There is a lot of upside to what Georges-Kevin Nkoudou does, but also some concerns.
He is extremely fast with the ball, but this can often see Nkoudou out of control. He is equally likely to complete a mazy dribble or his final pass as he is to make a real hash of it.
Last season for Marseille, he was their most dispossessed player with 3.6 per 90 minutes. He was also third on their list for unsuccessful touches with 3 per 90 minutes on the field. Losing the ball 6.6 times per game won’t cut it in the Premier League.
His final ball also needs work. His crossing completion was just 18% when it needs to be at least in the mid-twenties. For comparison, our other aggressive dribbling signing from transfer deadline day, Mousa Sissoko, completes crosses at 29%. The Premier League’s elite are at 30% plus, so there is lots of room for improvement.
Faster players can often be susceptible to more leg injuries and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is no exception. He missed 10 games last season for Marseille with both hamstring and thigh injuries. The season before he missed 7 games for FC Nantes with similar problems. Keeping Nkoudou healthy could be an issue.
How Georges-Kevin Nkoudou will change Spurs
A two-footed dribbler with pace to burn who can also run off the striker, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou will bring some exciting times to Spurs this season.
Nkoudou’s ability to dribble from either a standing start or on the move will aid us in puncturing stubborn defences that park the bus. His capacity to close down quickly will also help us to regain the ball much higher up the pitch. What’s more, Nkoudou’s speed will facilitate much quicker transitions between defending and attacking.
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou still has a lot to learn and the Premier League will be a big step up for him, However, he is high coachable and has an attitude that should see him make the grade.