By George Overhill

15th Sep, 2023 | 12:10pm

Short-term Djed Spence for Cody Drameh substitution could prove expensive regret for Leeds United next summer

Leeds United effectively ended Cody Drameh’s chances of ever making it in the first team this summer when they completed a loan deal for Tottenham’s Djed Spence.

In doing so the Whites sent their own right wing-back to Birmingham City on another loan move, one which will see out his contract at Elland Road and, barring a major surprise, see him leave on a free transfer.

The club’s relegation from the Premier League looked like the ideal opportunity to turn to a young player in Drameh who had proven himself more than capable in the Championship on half-season loans during each of the past two campaigns, but instead it will be Spence, the stand-out right-back in the second tier two seasons ago, who gets the chance.

The 23-year-old was in the PFA Team of the Year for Nottingham Forest two seasons ago as Steve Cooper’s side were promoted, while 21-year-old Drameh won Cardiff City’s player of the year in just five months on loan that year, before he emulated Spence last term by excelling for a promoted side with Luton Town, although neither are especially proven in the top flight.

The Spurs man impressed with a cameo off the bench against Sheffield Wednesday before the international break and could be a strong signing, but will cost far more to keep for longer than a year than it would have to give Drameh his shot and extend his contract and could prove to be a needless substitution.

According to the statistical comparison on WhoScored, with Spence’s excellent 2021-22 season up against both of Drameh’s successful loans at the Championship level it is actually the latter’s time at Luton Town last term that is rated highest overall (7.22).

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Defensively, using Opta Stats on FBRef, Spence at Forest was most proficient in terms of interceptions, with his 1.64 per 90 minutes ahead of 1.19 per 90 from Drameh last year.

However the now-Birmingham man made and won significantly more tackles – 2.38 won of 3.64 per 90 last season (and 2.41 of 3.86 per 90 the year before) although both numbers are skewed slightly by sparse action in the top flight with Leeds United – while Spence averaged just 1.02 won of 1.47 tackles per game for Forest.

Drameh was also stronger statistically in terms of blocked shots and passes (1.92 a game to Spence’s 1.12) and clearances (2.65 at Luton and 2.41 at Cardiff to Spence’s 1.67), suggesting they are different types of defenders but the now-former Whites talent is perhaps the more solid at the back.

The Leeds UNited issues in defence could mean they miss Drameh in that way although Daniel Farke likes his full-backs to get downfield. In an attacking capacity Spence had four assists as Forest were promoted, but Drameh registered five in his two half-campaigns combined – from fewer minutes.

Spence showed his pace on debut, and has statistically has shown to be a better dribbler with 1.89 successful take-ons a game two campaigns ago to Drameh’s 1.26 last season, but the latter gets into better positions as he received 5.17 progressive passes per 90 to Spence’s 4.18 in those respective years at the same age.

Drameh also put in 1.7 crosses per 90 minutes for Luton compared to just 0.5 by Spence at Forest, and while the Spurs loanee passes more than Drameh (35.1 vs 29.5 per game) and more accurately (75.9% success vs 72.9%) it is Drameh who was more threatening as he averaged 1.6 key passes per game to Spence’s 1.0 in their respective promotion campaigns.

While Spence is undoubtedly a strong pick-up, and potentially the more dynamic of the two, the numbers suggest that production-wise there isn’t a huge amount between the pair of young right-backs, with Drameh even arguably the more impactful.

The late-window arrival at Elland Road from Tottenham may well prove to be a key man this term if he can dislodge Luke Ayling, but with three years left on his contract back in London come next summer he won’t be cheap if Farke wanted to keep him.

On the other hand Drameh was already in the squad, and it seems like he would have been open to an extension if he had finally been given a run as the starter, given he stayed throughout the summer despite being overlooked last term, while numerous teammates departed, and with teams interested in him, only leaving on deadline day once the writing was on the wall because Spence had arrived.

The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Graham Smyth has suggested the former Whites youth player could prove to be “one that got away”. While Spence looks good for the here and now the club may come to regret snubbing Drameh once again in favour of a temporary signing if they are left with neither in a year’s time.

In other Leeds United news, a senior figure at Elland Road has been slammed as a “baby” over a controversial recent development.