Destiny Udogie has been hailed as one of the most exciting left-backs in the world, by former Premier League midfielder Paul Merson.
The Italian joined Tottenham from Udinese in the summer of 2022, but immediately returned to the Serie A side on loan for the season. There, he continued his development, playing 33 times for Udinese and being directly involved in seven goals, scoring three and providing a further four assists.
Highly-rated at the time as a promising young player, there was still some uncertainty as to how Udogie’s abilities would transfer over to the Premier League. The 21-year-old was entering a new environment under a manager also trying to make his mark, with Ange Postecoglou replacing Antonio Conte.
Having played mostly as a wing-back for Udinese, and signed by Antonio Conte whose main tactics deployed a back three, how would Udogie work in a more traditional back four?
The answer is, pretty well. Udogie has played in 17 of Tottenham’s 20 Premier League games this season, all as a left-back in a back four. He’s missed one game due to injury and two through suspension, and is very much key to the way Postecoglou plays.
In his 17 league appearances so far, Udogie has one goal and two assists, setting up goals in back-to-back matches against Bournemouth and Burnley earlier in the season before finding the net in a 4-1 win over Newcastle in December. Udogie has created 15 chances, made 43 tackles, 20 interceptions and 54 possessions won in the defensive third.
Across Premier League left-backs, no player has won possession more in the attacking third (13) or middle third (41) than Udogie this season. He also ranks second for final third passes attempted (237) and completed (200), and third for take-ons completed (12).
The Premier League is filled with a lot of talented left-backs this season, but a number have struggled for injuries, including Andrew Robertson, Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell. The role of the left-back has also seemed to change for some teams, with the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko moving infield to a more midfield role in possession.
But Merson believes Udogie is second to none.
“I think Destiny Udogie is the best left-back in the Premier League at the moment,” he told Sportskeeda.
“Where has this lad come from? Anyone could have bought him, but Spurs signed him in 2022 and loaned him back to Udinese, which seems to have worked wonders for him.
“Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe that with the technology and scouting system available in the game currently, no one else had a look at this guy!
Is Destiny Udogie x Pedro Porro becoming the best full-back pairing in the Premier League? 👥 pic.twitter.com/S3qMKL8Ley
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 11, 2023
“I watched him earlier in the season and he got booked after five minutes when he was playing against Bukayo Saka. After that, the Arsenal wide man didn’t have a kick, which was an early indication that he would be a player.
“I thought it might have been a fluke, but Udogie has gone from strength to strength as the season has progressed – he’s an absolutely outstanding talent.
“There are a lot of full-backs who are good going forward but can’t really defend, but Udogie is an all-round package, making him one of the most exciting players in the world in his position.
“He’s come back from Udinese and really flourished and is getting all the accolades now, so people might say he’s not really underrated.
“I just feel like after what he’s done this season, he deserves a mention, so he tops my list.”