Why Tottenham and Arsenal are keen on Forest playoff hero Spence


The Championship is littered with untapped talent that Premier League teams are often reluctant to take a gamble on. That said, there are those who do impress in England's second tier and make the step up to the top-flight with ease. Ivan Toney was the 11th best rated player in the Premier League this season, while Jarrod Bowen was one of only three players to register double figures for both goals and assists as the duo shone for Brentford and West Ham, respectively.


As was evident in Watford and Norwich's immedate return to the Championship, making the step up to the top tier can be easier said than done, though as proven by the aforementioned pair, among others, it's certainly more than doable. Given the raft of quality youngsters in the Championship, Premier League teams are now more than willing than ever to take a risk on youngsters in the division. 


Fabio Carvalho's move to Liverpool has already been confirmed, the teenager heavily linked with a switch to the Reds in January, and Djed Spence is likely to follow the former Fulham man to the Premier League one way or another. Spence spent the season on loan with Nottingham Forest and was crucial in their eventual promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs, ending a 23-year spell outside of Engand's top flight. 


The 21-year-old ended the campaign with a WhoScored rating of 7.05 for Forest, that enough to make the Championship team of the season, as he regularly burst forward to help stretch opponents. This became all the more potent a weapon in Forest's arsenal once Steve Cooper took charge in September. Cooper implemented a three-man defence and the use of wing-backs played to Spence's strengths. 



The license to bomb upfield wasn't wasted on Spence, who completed more dribbles (76) than any other defender in the Championship this season, that enough to rank joint-fifth in the division. In addition, when he did get forward, Spence had a solid end product that saw him finish the campaign with 45 key passes from open play, that ranking among the top 25 players. Granted, the youngster ended the season with just four assists to his name, but that is due to his teammates' profligacy rather down to the player himself. 


It's this attacking quality that has seen Premier League sides show an interest in Spence. The role of wing-back is a hugely demanding, and any player who excels in the position quickly drops onto the radar of a team that plays with such a system. Even so, if potential suitors are looking to mould Spence into a right-back, he still has the defensive awareness to shine in a deeper role. 


136 tackles and interceptions combined ranked 18th in the Championship this season, with Spence boasting the defensive knowhow to deny opponents from attacking his side's goal. Combining this with his attacking quality that allows the player to successfully turn defence into attack when he does win the ball. 


Yet while Spence is able to play right-back, it would be a huge waste of his offensive talent if he were not utilised at right wing-back. With Forest promoted, this complicates any possible deal there is to be done with Middlesbrough for Spence's services. When asked on his Forest future, he said: "I would love to stay, but it's not in my hands. We'll see what the future holds." 


Boro's stance is softened in that Chris Wilder already has Isaiah Jones at his disposal, and he impressed at the Riverside Stadium this season, so it's unlikely to Boro will keep both Jones and Spence. The latter is far and away the more sellable asset and they can use any funds raised from Spence's likely summer departure to invest elsewhere as they seek to launch a sustained promotion push having finished five points off the playoffs. 


Forest are keen to keep Spence at the City Ground, yet they face increased competition in his services. Tottenham, who are aiming to invest further at wing-back despite the impending arrival of Ivan Perisic from Inter, are keeping tabs on Spence, so too are north London rivals Arsenal. 


Spurs' right wing-back woes are well documented, though there were improvements in Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal once Antonio Conte took over the reins in November, and with Spence crucially filling a home grown quota in the squad, it's a move that would suit the club. For Arsenal, there is less a need to really go all out for Spence. Takehiro Tomiyasu is first choice at right-back and his more defensive approach allows for Kieran Tierney to get forward down the left, safe in the knowledge the space he vacates is covered. 


With Cedric Soares also set to stay at the Emirates this summer, as per Football.London, Spence wouldn't get the crucial game time he needs at his stage of his development. If it is the guarantee of regular first-team action Spence pines for, though, then he is best off remaining at Forest, provided they can strike a deal with Boro. Already a cult hero on the red side of Nottingham, the wing-back would have plenty of chances to adjust to Premier League football under the watchful eye of Cooper. 


Interest from a number of Premier League big hitters is high praise in itself, however, with Spence ultimately playing a key role in Forest's return to the top-flight. His stock will only soar if he follows in the footsteps of Bowen and Toney, and makes the step up from the Championship with ease, which in itself would not be a shock.

Why Tottenham and Arsenal are keen on Forest playoff hero Spence