Why reported Tottenham target Wilfried Bony has brains as well as brawn
Tottenham Hotspur have moved quietly and astutely to address the problems in their squad so far this summer, adding Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Michel Vorm at reasonable fees to provide some extra depth and solidity to their highly-porous defence.
Their fans, still having the occasional flashback of the thrashings they received from Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool last season, are no doubt delighted by Mauricio Pochettino’s quick assessment of the major weakness in their squad, and if rumoured moves for Mateo Musacchio and Morgan Schneiderlin also go through, the Lilywhites will be a far sterner proposition for their opponents next term.
However Spurs supporters might be a little worried about their club’s apparent ease with the striker situation at White Hart Lane. They already have Roberto Soldado, Emmanuel Adebayor and Harry Kane on the books, but significant questions marks next to each of those names mean that Spurs should remain in the market for a new forward this summer.
One man who has been linked with them throughout the window is Swansea’s Wilfried Bony, with the Ivorian also apparently attracting interest from Liverpool after his excellent debut campaign in the Premier League.
Over the course of his first 12 months in Wales and at the World Cup in Brazil, Bony’s most prominent qualities have become well known. He is powerful, good in the air and a strong finisher. The 25-year-old netted 16 times in the league and 25 goals in total for Swansea, 18 more than their next best scorer Jonathan de Guzman.
However, simply portraying Bony as a brutish finisher does the striker a disservice, and really it is ability to link with other players that should be encouraging Spurs to step up their interest this summer.
Bony is fast and comfortable on the ball, able to switch out wide and let wingers or attacking midfielders push on past him. This is key at Spurs, where pre-season friendlies have suggested Mauricio Pochettino will play an incredibly fluid front four where the likes of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela are given the freedom of the pitch.
For all his faults last year, Soldado is an excellent one-touch passer in the final third, while an on-song Adebayor’s hold-up play was vital to Spurs initial rally under Tim Sherwood. It is important that Bony can also do this, while carrying slightly less baggage than the goal-shy Soldado or mercurial Adebayor.
The Ivorian slotted easily into Swansea’s technical, passing side, and although his overall pass completion rate for the season looks low at 74 per cent, it’s worth noting that a substantial chunk of the balls he mislaid were headers.
Bony’s pace and work rate would also be useful in Pochettino’s high pressing system, where the strikers have to lead the attempts to keep the opposition penned down in their own half.
Most importantly of all, Bony has a huge amount of confidence in front of goal, having netted 62 goals in 84 games over the past two seasons with Swansea and Vitesse. Bony’s conversion rate was only 17.6 per cent last season, but in a way that can be construed as a positive as his prolificacy was not based on taking an abnormal amount of his chances (as with Adebayor’s initial flurry of goals last term), but via the more sustainable route of getting into good positions frequently and taking a lot of shots.
With 16 goals and four assists, Bony directly contributed to 20 of the Welsh side’s total of 54, and both his goal and assist tallies could well improve further as he gets more settled in English football.
The Ivorian certainly seemed to grow fonder of English football as last season went on. Bony scored twice on the first day of 2014, and has been a roll ever since. In Swansea’s final 20 games of the campaign, Bony scored 13 and set up three, before bagging two more goals at the World Cup with Ivory Coast.
After filling their squad with talented players from around Europe last summer, Spurs have recognised the value of Premier League experience this time around, targeting players with at least a season in England’s top-flight under their belt.
Having already tested himself against the division’s best, Bony would surely have less trouble transferring his free-scoring antics from Wales to London than Soldado did from Valencia.
As with every signing, there would be some risk to splashing out £20m or so on Bony, who could be due a dry patch. However, there’s no shortage of risk involved for Spurs in sticking with their current forward options.
If Soldado continues to misfire, Adebayor decides he’s made enough effort halfway through the season and Kane fails to kick on, there will be plenty of Spurs fans wishing they had made a move for Bony this summer.