The Lilywhites ought to have seized the opportunity to add a fantasy attacking bolster this summer.
Dejan Kulusevski’s permanent signing with Tottenham Hotspur, following the winger’s 18-month loan stint at N17, was a transfer that mostly went unnoticed this summer due to Harry Kane’s dominance of the headlines at Tottenham Hotspur.
The quick-footed attacker was acquired from Juventus by Antonio Conte and the club’s then-sporting director Fabio Paratici in January 2022, and he went on to play a significant part in the Lilywhites’ Champions League qualifying in the second half of that season.
The 23-year-old, who played alongside the lethal combination of Heung-min Son and Harry Kane in an exciting offensive triumvirate, amassed five goals and eight assists in just 18 Premier League games, swiftly establishing himself as a crucial player in north London.
The wide winger then had a relatively terrible 2022–23 season, scoring only twice and dishing up seven assists in the league. It was then unclear whether or not the club should have given him a long-term contract.
The former Parma sensation eventually signed on the dotted line for a reported cost of £25m after a period of discussion that raised questions about whether the transfer would actually happen. Spurs had requested a decrease on the £29.2m option to buy that was included as part of the initial loan deal.
Despite accusations made by 90min in June that manager Ange Postecoglou was “not too convinced” by the 30-cap international, an agreement had been reached despite the player’s apparent need to win over his new management.
The Swedish player has started all four league games so far this season, but he has only scored once and failed to assist once during that span, giving the impression that he has won the trust of the former Celtic coach.
Given the winger’s inconsistent performance over the previous year or two, one could argue that bringing in an attacking replacement would have been a wiser strategy. The club is also said to have expressed interest in long-time target Jarrod Bowen during the most recent transfer window.
Did Tottenham want to sign Jarrod Bowen?
The Athletic’s Charlie Eccleshare reported in late June that Postecoglou and co. had been considering the England international as a potential addition to help strengthen their forward options, after also expressing interest in Harvey Barnes of Leicester City at the time. Bowen was reportedly on Tottenham’s ‘list of homegrown targets’ heading into the summer, though there had also been an acceptance that the Hammers may be unwilling to sell, after all.
However, it may have been a mistake to not at least try to wrest the former Hull City winger away from the London Stadium, especially since the Lilywhites had been keeping a close eye on the 26-year-old ever since he was linked with a £20 million move back in January 2019 – prior to his move to the Irons a year later.
While recent rumours have suggested a £75 million price tag for the Leominster-born wizard, CIES Football Observatory estimates the player to be worth closer to € 50 million (£ 44 million), which is not significantly more than what was paid for Kulusevski.
How has Bowen performed this season?
The fact that the Hammers sensation has started the new season in a strong vein of form—having already scored three goals and provided one assist in the top flight—means that any prospective transfer failure will hurt even more.
The £60k per week player, who is a part of a West Ham team that, like Spurs, has ten points after four league games, was particularly important in the unexpected 3-1 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion a few weeks ago. He produced a beautiful touch and poked finish at the Amex.
Bowen has been forced to step up and emerge as the actual leading talisman for David Moyes’ team as the aforementioned Rice is no longer an option, even if he has already been responsible for scoring goals in the past in east London.
With the exception of the current season, the 5′ 9″ speedster has 26 league goals to his credit since the start of the 2020–21 season, including 12 goals and 10 assists in 2021/22. Jurgen Klopp has branded him a “unbelievable player”
The former Hereford United star was also crucial in leading his current team to continental success earlier this year when Moyes’ team stormed to the Europa Conference League crown, scoring the game-winning goal against Serie A club Fiorentina in the championship match.
Bowen has been especially lethal in a West Ham jersey lately; similar to Kulusevski, he generally cuts in onto his stronger left foot from the right wing. Spurs will definitely regret missing out on Bowen this summer as well as back in 2019.
Is Bowen better than Kulusevski?
One area in which Bowen excels is his defensive effort rate to support others around him while also being eager to punish the opposition going the other way. He ranks in the top 10% for aerial duels won per 90 and the top 6% among his European peers for interceptions made.
Kulusevski’s performance in a Tottenham jersey over the past 365 days in the same position is inferior to this one, with the Tottenham player ranking in only the top 18% for interceptions and just the bottom 9% for aerial duels won.
Overall last season, Bowen outperformed his younger opponent in terms of creativity, generating nine big opportunities for his colleagues in the league as opposed to just seven for him at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Bowen might have easily been a more trustworthy and proven choice in Postecoglou’s eyes given that he has consistently produced the goods for Moyes and company over the past several seasons as well.
It would seem that Spurs disappointingly came up short this time after previously stealing players like Jermain Defoe and Michael Carrick from their London rivals.