After a window that started with indecision, Tottenham have woken up from their slumber and started doing some great business. James Maddison has been secured in an astute deal from relegated Leicester City and now they are close to signing Shakhtar’s Manor Solomon.
The Israeli international, who spent the last season on loan at Fulham due to conditions in Ukraine, is another smart addition to an attack that increasingly looks like one of the Premier League’s most threatening units.
With Dejan Kulusevski also set to become a permanent member of the side, Spurs fans can dream of goals and glory returning to their club, especially if hyper-attacking manager Ange Postecoglou gets his vision drilled into the side.
Solomon is the most recent signing, and unlike Maddison, is a relatively unknown commodity. Here’s a look at why Tottenham have signed Manor Solomon and how he could fit into Postecoglou’s plans:
Note: Stats and percentile courtesy of FBRef
Manor Solomon’s playing style
To understand his fit at Spurs, we need to look at what kind of a player Solomon is.
The 23-year-old is a jack-of-all-trades attacking midfielder whose footballing education has come in various positions. Throughout his career, he has played on either wing as a forward or a midfielder, as a No 10, or even as a striker.
Therefore, he provides a lot of flexibility to his manager while setting up the team.
As an attacker, his biggest strengths are two-fold, and coincidentally, they are the two areas most revered by modern managers.
Right off the bat, his defensive numbers catch the eye. With 3.15 tackles/90, he was in the 99th percentile of forward in Europe’s top-five leagues last season.
82nd percentile in interceptions and 74th percentile in blocks speak of a player who is a relentless and smart defender from the front. In modern gegenpressing sides, having an attacker like him is a coach’s dream.
Then comes his dribbling qualities. Solomon is an absolute livewire with the ball. He is capable of beating his man multiple times and likes the thrill of it.
Sometimes, it might come at the cost of an attacking move, but one can imagine in a more structured role with controlled freedom given to him, he can act as a one-man ball-carrying machine.
His 2.99 successful take-ons/90 puts him in the 99th percentile.
However, he is clearly a raw prospect in terms of delivering the end product. Solomon is prone to taking potshots from long range at the cost of a better chance being created elsewhere. Sometimes, it can lead to the spectacular, but it can become a frustrating experience if done in excess.
Then comes his assist numbers, for a player who is as good a dribbler as Solomon, he just doesn’t convert them into chances as often as he should. He can hold on to the ball for too long instead of playing his teammate through, sometimes even choosing to dribble instead of releasing it quickly and efficiently.
However, the positive side is that he has all the raw tools in his game. He just needs proper coaching and playing time so those tools can be harnessed. That brings us to his fit with Spurs.
Manor Solomon’s fit at Tottenham
Firstly, it should be made clear that Solomon is not coming as an undisputed first-team player. Spurs have Richarlison and Kulusevski fighting for the spots out wide and Maddison’s arrival will clog it up further. Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min are untouchables.
In the beginning, Solomon will have to come off the bench in a role which is probably more suited to him right now.
He can work his dribbling magic against tired legs and force mistakes with his pressing. Furthermore, Ange Postecoglou’s formation of choice in his career has been 4-3-3 which, on paper, doesn’t use a conventional attacking midfielder.
This opens up three avenues for Solomon.
He can either play on the wings, where the competition will be fierce with only one spot really available, as Son will occupy one. Or, in Postecoglou’s system, he might get refashioned as an attacking No 8.
His defensive work and work rate are already top-notch. Pep Guardiola has shown that you can get away with playing two attack-minded central midfielders- the “Free 8s”- if you dominate possession and clog up the centre on counter-attacks.
With a defensive midfielder behind him, Solomon could do a job as a No 8, especially against sides that sit back.
The third one is the most straightforward scenario, although unlikely.
Postecoglou could be looking to harness his gifts to unleash him as a full-time striker. Harry Kane’s future is in doubt and his contract expires next year. Solomon’s finishing has been good, as he scored four goals last year from an xG of just 1.04.
The problem with Solomon isn’t finishing the chances, but getting into positions where good chances fall. With attacking movement coaching, he can improve that aspect.
Of course, it is unlikely because it can be argued that if Kane were to rest, then Richarlison and Son are better equipped to do the striker role. In that case Solomon can play out wide where his dribbling in open spaces would be lethal.
No matter how Postecoglou ultimately decides to use Solomon, his versatility and unique skill set means that Spurs have landed themselves a huge bargain who would add many dimensions to a predictable attack that was getting too reliant on Harry Kane.
His ability to play in multiple positions should be a fun story to track as Postecoglou’s genius mind tries to maximise his potential.