Tottenham’s decision to part ways with Harry Kane this summer made a lot of sense in many respects, but also left them looking somewhat light in attack. Richarlison, who has so far flattered to deceive since joining from Everton last summer, is the man trusted to lead the line for Ange Postecoglou’s side, but beyond that options are thin on the ground.
One option is Heung-Min Son, but much of his best work comes from the left flank, while summer addition Alejio Veliz is not yet ready for first-team football after joining from Argentinian side Rosario, with Postecoglou explaining ‘I wouldn’t expect him to see any minutes in the first part of the season.’
Due to this, an attacker is high on their wishlist and one of the names mentioned most prominently has been that of KAA Gent striker Gift Orban, who is thought to be available for around £30m.
Still just 21 years old, he is considered a forward with plenty of promise, but could he fill the Harry Kane-shaped hole in north London?
Encouraging signs, but a small sample size
Orban has not played much senior football, with fewer than 1300 minutes to his name in the Belgian top flight last season.
Despite this, he made a splash scoring nine times and grabbing another two assists, while he put his name in lights during a Conference League clash in which he scored a hat-trick in just 3 minutes and 25 seconds, the fastest in recorded history in any UEFA competition.
It was an excellent demonstration of exactly what Orban was about. Though ostensibly right-footed, he is comfortable shooting on his left (and scored twice with it during his hat-trick). In fact, his percentage of shots on target is 50% on his left, only slightly less than the 57% success rate on his stronger foot.
It is this two-footedness that at least in part contributes to his phenomenal shooting numbers. He takes over four shots per game in the Pro League, more than any Premier League player last campaign (Kane managed 130 shots across the 2022-23 season, at an average of 3.5 per 90 minutes).
Of those 4 shots that Orban fires off every game, no one is more accurate in Belgian football, with 63.6% of those hitting the target. Even better, though he only registers 0.48 expected goals per 90, he is scoring at over a goal per 90, meaning that he is a capable finisher even when it comes to more difficult chances.
Orban is also a clean striker of the ball, able to take aim from just about anywhere with minimal fuss and generating plenty of power in each of his strikes.
One area that he is particularly weak is in the air, which is a major point of difference from the man that he would be replacing in north London. Last season, Kane scored 10 of his 30 Premier League goals with his head, By comparison, of Orban’s 45 senior goals recorded by transfermarkt, just three have been headers (6.7%).
With the 5ft10 inch striker boasting an aerial win % of just 16.7% (winning roughly one in six of his duels), he is unlikely to be replicating Kane’s prowess in the air any time soon, but he has other talents.
A shot-happy striker
As his tendency to shoot four times a game suggests, Orban is pretty indiscriminate about where he takes aim from. Plenty of his goals last season (7/15) came from a traditional striker’s spot, inside the box & between the width of the two posts with a slight tendency to favour the right side of the box.
Efforts from between 2 and 10 yards out demonstrate his ability to be in the right place at the right time often, and he has a knack for predicting where the ball will drop to give himself an easy chance.
But he is also happy to take on efforts from further out, with three of his strikes coming from outside the penalty area and plenty of efforts taken from as far as 25-30 yards out.
He tends to favour the right side of the area, and with it his right foot (with which he scored 13/15 of his Pro League goals last season) though as mentioned before his left foot is for far more than simply standing on.
Link up play
Perhaps in part due to being half of a two-striker setup with Gent, Orban moves around the pitch a fair bit in seach of the ball, and is happy to run into the channels. Most of his play, however, happens within the width of the penalty area and about 30 yards from goal, where he can either turn with the ball and run towards goal or lay the ball off to a teammate.
By comparison to Tottenham strikers, the Nigerian is closer to Richarlison than Kane in that he won’t drop too deep in search of the ball before taking on build-up responsibility on his own. Rather, he will stay within a traditional no.9 berth and wait for the ball to reach him before bursting into action.
One thing that will have to improve in Orban’s game is his ability to hold onto the ball. Though he is often the catalyst for good things at Gent (1 in 6 of his final third passes are considered a ‘key pass’), he loses the ball relatively easily.
Of his open-play passes in the final third, he completes just 63%. For reference, in the 2019-20 Premier League season that would have put him between Shane Long and Troy Deeney as the sixth worst in the Premier League for holding onto the ball, though Harry Kane is not much higher on 66%.
Plenty will argue of course that his job is not to pass the ball, but to put it in the back of the net, and lots of those failed attempts come around the edge of the penalty area where passes are riskier, so there are mitigating circumstances around the Nigerian, but it could be a cause for concern in some quarters.
So, would he fit?
Gift Orban appears to have all the qualities to make him an excellent striker for someone, but it is also easy to see why plenty of clubs may be wary of splashing out £30m+ on the Nigerian this summer.
Though he is scoring at a freakish nature (all without taking penalties), his limited game time makes it hard to accurately judge just how reflective of his true ability this is.
That being said, he clearly possesses a great eye for goal and an excellent instinct of positions to take up to turn home a loose ball, combined with the rare ability to make something out of nothing and the occasional spectacular effort.
There is obviously a massive jump in quality between the Belgian Pro League and the Premier League, but as Kaoru Mitoma and Moises Caicedo have both shown in recent seasons, it is a gap that can be bridged.
At a side like Tottenham, where the first level of striker options (the likes of Victor Osimhen) are seemingly unattainable and the club are instead focusing on a more youthful rebuild, the 21-year-old be an excellent pickup with a massive upside, who could develop alongside Richarlison and away from the immediate pressure a starting berth would bring.
More Sergio Aguero than Harry Kane, Orban could be the joker in Postecoglou’s pack.