August 10, 2018

So Here We Are

Dear Mr Levy,

No wait, that’s that other bloke.

As Mauricio Pochettino delivered a staggeringly philosophical press conference yesterday, which moved between the ever-so-slightly sanctimonious and pure, glorious serenity, some of the cracks of the transfer window were smoothed over. He’s wonderful in these situations; a true company man, protecting his team, his boss and himself with pragmatism, the odd joke, plenty of smiles and a warmth rarely seen in such arenas.

Spurs only have themselves to blame for this mess — if, indeed, it is one; I’ll come back to that — which began two years ago when we signed Vincent Janssen, Georges-Kévin N’Koudou and Moussa Sissoko, three players we’ve presumably been looking to shift in every window since.

We have a squad bloated with problems — some players are not good enough, some want to leave — and Pochettino’s ‘We didn’t sell players and with 25 players in the squad it is difficult to add players.’ comment pretty much explains that it is difficult to do ‘in’ business without first doing ‘out’ business.

The plan over the next few weeks needs to be to find loan takers for some of those players that we ultimately want to flog and those players that are ultimately going to potentially cause unrest. Which is, I presume, why we’re talking to Schalke about a loan move for Danny Rose.

Within the bloat, however, is a core of excellence. Our first fourteen or fifteen players are a match for nearly any other side in the league, and comfortably top four worthy. The rest? Well, we have to make it work. Pochettino’s brilliance comes in his ability to improve. To squeeze extra from a starting point which doesn’t seem to have any slack. Every year we see growth from within the squad; last year it was Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies, this year someone else will step up, that’s simply inevitable with a coach as good as ours.

There is untapped potential there too, some of which we’ve seen in pre-season (Oliver Skipp, Luke Amos, et al) and some of which we haven’t (Josh Onomah and, whisper it quietly, Marcus Edwards). Many fans have given up on Onomah and Edwards, but if we can harness that talent, the upside is huge. Onomah can do some of the things that our long-term target, Jack Grealish, can do, possessing both the ability to drive with the ball from central midfield and to pass the ball effectively, illustrated by the fact that he was statistically one of the best progressive passers in the Championship last season:

Edwards has had well-documented problems — before and during his loan spell at Norwich, but all need not be lost and a clean slate and change of approach from both club and player could finally see both benefit. Perhaps I’m deluded and both will be on loan by September.

But I do think this window has been a mess. I think Daniel Levy has failed in this window, as he did in August 2016, as he did in January 2017, as he largely did in August 2017 and as he did in January 2018. But the failing, in my opinion, is in not putting an appropriate structure in place as much as being one of (lack of) ambition or his famed negotiation tactics. He invites pressure onto himself by being so closely involved in the process, and by not having recruitment experts on hand to do what he cannot.

We accept that Spurs cannot match the spending power of other Premier League clubs with bottomless pits of cash — certainly not having just spent a billion quid on a stadium, and certainly not until we are at a point where we can stretch our wage structure (after a year of increased match-day revenue, perhaps). So we need to be canny, we need to dig that bit deeper, we need to use other methods to identify players. It all seemed to be going so well with the (albeit short-lived) appointment of Paul Mitchell, his black box, a new analytics team, and an increased focus on using ‘modern’ methods to recruit, rather than relying on word of mouth and ‘the eye test’. This has not yielded results.

As I’ve spoken about on The Extra Inch, my biggest hope for this window was that Spurs had got their act together and would act early to secure targets which may be a little under the radar, making the deals that bit easier to do. Pochettino’s pre-World Cup comments implied that the intention was to do business early, to have signings available for pre-season. Clearly, our inability to sell has inhibited our ability to buy, and we have to consider that in future windows. Perhaps we need to accept less. Or better, to not buy trash in the first place.

I hope that this will lead to a change in approach. Where a signing is simply squad fodder, let’s promote from within instead. Let’s utilise the talent already at the club to fill those squad places. This has multiple benefits, but the main two being the savings in outlay (of course), which frees up funds to genuinely improve the first team, but also creates the sense of a progression route being in place from the Academy, which will hopefully put an end to us shedding our top talent in the way that we have over the past two years.

It is clear to any sensible observers that Spurs have basically stood still this summer whilst, at least on the surface, those around us have improved. The window has been a disaster in many ways, but the disaster is within context and — just as importantly — is containable.

Even having signed nobody, we probably have the fourth best squad in the league, and we probably have the second best manager in the league. A manager capable of over-achieving, and so third place again would be no great surprise to anybody.

We are short on fit first teamers for now, sure, but we have a relatively ‘easy’ (with the caveat that ‘there are no easy games in the Premier League) start to the season that will hopefully allow us time to get players fit before we play United.

The positivity that the new stadium will bring can provide the same bounce as a new signing and whilst we might be left wondering what might have been had we strengthened, I still foresee a positive season for Spurs, and hopefully this will be the year that we finally bring a trophy home.

On a personal level, I have negotiated flexible working for the next few months which will give me a little more time to write, to podcast, and to engage more generally, and I can’t wait for the season to get going.

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July 21, 2018

25-Man Squad Update – July 2018

With the transfer window closing at 17:00 on Thursday 9th August, there are fewer than 19 days left on which to do business. At the end of the window we will be required to notify the Premier League of our 25-man squad.

To summarise the rule, as I do each year, we are able to name a 25-man squad if eight of the players are ‘home grown’. We could name fewer than eight home grown players, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad — for example, if we only have seven home grown players, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. A home grown player (HGP) is defined as follows:

An HGP means a player who, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to The Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons, or 36 months, before his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21). – Source: Premier League

We do not need to name players who are under 21 on our squad list; for the 2018/19 campaign, players considered ‘under 21’ will have been born on or after 1st January 1997.

Since the beginning of last season we have added one non-home grown player in Lucas Moura.

Also, since last season, Harry Winks, Connor Ogilvie, Dele Alli and Davinson Sánchez have all passed the age threshold and will need to be named in the squad, whereas last year they could all simply be included in our list of under-21 players.

Our ‘named’ 25-man squad might consist of the following (* = home grown player):

Hugo Lloris
Michel Vorm
Paulo Gazzaniga

Jan Vertonghen
Toby Alderweireld
Davinson Sánchez
Kieran Trippier*
Serge Aurier
Ben Davies*
Danny Rose*
Connor Ogilvie*

Mousa Dembélé
Victor Wanyama
Eric Dier
Harry Winks*

Christian Eriksen
Dele Alli*
Heung-min Son
Erik Lamela
Lucas Moura
Moussa Sissoko

Harry Kane*
Fernando Llorente
Vincent Janssen

NB: there are only 24 players and Georges-Kévin N’Koudou has been left out in this example, as we only have seven home grown players over 21.

Of course, we are then able to select any players who were born on or after 1st January 1997 without needing to register them. This means that any of the following (plus the other first and second year academy scholars) would be available for selection. NB: I have presented them in age order.

Luke Amos
Anthony Georgiou
Kyle Walker-Peters
Josh Onomah
Shayon Harrison
Tom Glover
Cameron Carter-Vickers
Juan Foyth
Shilow Tracey
Alfie Whiteman
George Marsh
Kazaiah Sterling
Marcus Edwards
Brandon Austin
Jaden Brown
Dylan Duncan
Jack Roles
Japhet Tanganga
Sam Shashoua
Jonathan Dinzeyi
Charles Freeman
Jamie Reynolds
TJ Eyoma
Tashan Oakley-Boothe
Jonathan De Bie
Tariq Hinds
Reo Griffiths

As it stands, we have 25 players over 21 and not all of them can be named on our Premier League squad list, as only seven of them are home grown players. This means that we have ‘squad space’ for one more grown player, but no space for more non-home grown players without first removing one.

From next year (2019/20), Luke Amos, Anthony Georgiou, Kyle Walker-Peters, Josh Onomah, Shayon Harrison, Tom Glover, and Cameron Carter Vickers would need to be named on our squad list should we wish to use them as they were all born before 1st January 1998. The fact that all seven of these are considered home grown is useful, though I would suspect that some of them will be permanently transferred before the start of next season.

Commentary

That’s the facts dealt with; now some commentary on the above. Firstly, a number of players listed in my example squad list are seen as expendable (Vincent Janssen, Fernando Llorente, Moussa Sissoko, Connor Ogilvie*), but rumours suggest that we are struggling to sell unwanted players and, indeed, only have loan offers on the table for Janssen, Sissoko and Nkoudou. Alderweireld, Rose and Dembélé were expected to leave, but all has currently gone quiet.

The state of the squad – bloated with a lot of deadwood – points towards an at-least-partially unsuccessful transfer policy, and helps to explain in part why our summer has been quiet so far. Mauricio Pochettino likes to work with a small squad, but is also presumably acutely aware that being left with players that cannot be listed in the Premier League squad is not an efficient use of his wage budget. In essence: we need to sell before we can buy.

Also: Jack Grealish makes total sense. Central midfield is a problem position, with Harry Winks needing to prove his fitness and Mousa Dembélé 1. visibly declining and 2. rumoured to be leaving. As a homegrown player, we could add Grealish to the squad without having to sell. He is not yet 23, covers some of the skills missing from the squad (driving runs forward, creative passing from deep-ish midfield) and is available for a reasonable price for various reasons.

Finally, we are being linked with wingers and I don’t really know why. We signed Lucas Moura in January, and are now looking pretty well-stocked for players who play wide in a 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3, with Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min, Erik Lamela, and Lucas Moura all used in these roles (I’m assuming we will sell Moussa Sissoko and GK Nkoudou). One may argue that Christian Eriksen will be moved back into a three-man midfield this year, but that would then assume we would switch to a system (4-3-3?) that allows just three forwards, which you would have to assume would be Kane, Son, and Dele, with Lamela and Lucas as rotation options.

Another suggestion is that the wingers we are being linked with – Anthony Martial, Wilfried Zaha, Malcom – could cover Kane too. We have some reasonable squad cover for Kane through Son (and, I guess, Llorente if he stays), and Lamela showed potential as a false nine last season if we were short. Essentially, I personally think funds are better spent elsewhere in this team unless Pochettino has given up on Lucas already (which would seem hasty).

The good news is that the World Cup and lack of signings means that young players will get opportunities on the pre-season tour, and will have a chance to impress Pochettino; this could ultimately lead to some squad gaps being filled from within. Cynically, I think it’s a problem that our young players tend to only get a chance when we are down to the bare bones, but that’s another article. Walker-Peters, Onomah and Amos are all now 21 and probably need to make decisions about their long-term futures, or will risk becoming versions of Ruben Loftus-Cheek (just 2,442 Premier League minutes – the equivalent of 27 matches – at the age of 22 despite having such ability). Perhaps this was the long-term plan all along, and Pochettino has timed it perfectly.

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December 9, 2017

When does Spurs’ young talent get a chance?

The free hit at APOEL last week felt like the perfect opportunity for Mauricio Pochettino to give Marcus Edwards his first start for Tottenham.

If you only watch first team football and pay no interest to our youth teams, this will likely be your only prior knowledge of our young attacking midfielder:

Edwards made his debut in this match in September 2016, coming off the bench against Gillingham, aged 17. Now 19, and without having seen a single minute of first team football since that day, he might be starting to question why he (eventually) signed a new contact.

Edwards has been doing his thing for Spurs’ youth teams since before he was 16. Impeccable balance and dribbling (after Mousa Dembélé he is the best dribbler at the club), excellent creative vision, and occasional final product have been the order of the day, and not much has changed during that time. He’s got a little sturdier — though, to be honest, strength has never really been an issue due to his low centre of gravity; he’s got a little better at pressing; he’s got a little less close to the first team picture.

Pochettino’s Messi ‘comparisons’ at the time were based on style only, and in no way was he suggesting that Edwards could be as good as one of the greatest footballers of all time. But Pochettino virtually retracted the comment this week, saying ‘Maybe I made a mistake because I believed it was positive and he was going to take it in a positive way.’ In that statement he seems to almost take responsibility for the comment and subsequent reaction and then instantly shirk it — let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest it might be the language barrier confusing matters. But ultimately if the comment has not had the desired effect, it’s as much Pochettino’s misjudgement as it is anything to do with the player.

But this, it turns out, is not the only controversial uttering of Pochettino on Edwards. In his ‘Brave New World’ book/diary, Pochettino says of Edwards ‘He has authority and behavioural problems, and we have to look at the bigger picture to find out the root cause.’ Perhaps it was a strategically placed comment designed to encourage Edwards through tough love, but that must have been pretty difficult for a teenager to see in print.

Edwards’ reported attitude problems have been accepted as truth. As a 16-year old he was seen by some as a sulker. He apparently had run-ins with the hierarchy. Before he signed his new contract, there were rumours of rifts with the club over assurances that he wanted regarding his route to the first team. But by all accounts these are things of the past, and Edwards has got through this fairly typical teenage phase and knuckled down, worked hard, and performed pretty consistently for a player of his type. Indeed, there have been no indications of any problems from his on-pitch behaviour or performances. And if there were such significant issues, why would the club have offered Edwards a contract that runs until 2020?

Even if there were still problems brewing, Pochettino has never shied away from playing other players with ‘attitude problems’: he signed Moussa Sissoko (famed for not turning up every week at Newcastle) and Serge Aurier (over whom well-known on and off pitch question marks existed) and continues to play Danny Rose despite him orchestrating and giving one of the most incredibly damning footballer interviews in recent years. You could even bundle Dele Alli into this conversation, who Pochettino has (rightly) persisted with despite various comments to the press about his character.

It must have been difficult for Edwards to be the best, most talented player at basically every level he’s played at for the last eight to ten years and see very little progression during that time. I could imagine that having a demotivating effect, yet he is still doing the business in the majority of matches — a regular threat, a regular winner of penalties, a regular assist-er of goals and a regular scorer himself.

And his omission (if one could refer to it as such) from the APOEL match was due to ‘performance’ if you take Pochettino at face value. Following that logic one must assume that he is not be ticking the right boxes in training, and that Kazaiah Sterling and Luke Amos are, because if it’s about performance in matches, Edwards (and others) has been playing at levels well above Sterling and Amos over the past 12-18 months. I am a fan of both of these players but there is no denying that they had both dropped off previous performance levels, and I had started to wonder if terrific early potential had started to fall away. Conversely, Edwards has been mostly consistent. One could also suggest that Nkoudou’s performances have been pretty diabolical for the first team, so ‘performance’ meritocracy doesn’t seem to be consistently at play.

There are so many schools of thought on Edwards:

He’s overrated, another John Bostock. — He’s on a different level to John Bostock.

He’s got an attitude. — Yet the club gave him a lengthy contract.

He’s not physically ready. — Though he was physically ready to play against Gillingham nearly 18 months ago.

He’s 19 and his time will come. — This is an optimistic reading that I’m not against accepting.

My opinion is a little different. I think Pochettino is struggling generally to integrate youth players. I’ll explain why.

Since Pochettino took charge he has only truly brought through one youngster: Harry Winks. We’ve seen Josh Onomah have some game time (albeit in uncomfortable positions); Cameron Carter-Vickers came and went on-loan (which is fair, he looked raw); Anton Walkes made a debut and then was sent to the MLS to get regular game-time; Filip Lesniak had a few minutes and was sold; Anthony Georgiou (who most youth-watchers assumed was destined for League One or Two) has had a debut; and now Sterling has five minutes of first team football to his name. In the four years prior to Pochettino, we brought through a really good number of young players, and Pochettino arrived with such a strong reputation for developing youth. So what’s going wrong?

Many will argue that I am biased in favour of youth players, and I cannot deny that this is the case. I openly admit that I would generally rather we put more faith in maximising our academy investment than sign players as punts, such is the level at which our academy output is. Were our youth players less good, of course I wouldn’t say that. However, I am not calling for just any youth players to be called up to the first team, and to be honest I generally had not been supportive of Georgiou, Luke Amos or Tashan Oakley-Boothe getting mintues, because there are others I prefer. Kazaiah Sterling is slightly different because we’re so lacking in striker depth and he seems back to his ‘old’ form recently. Most proponents of our academy only truly rate a relatively small proportion of our youth players and absolutely do not call for regular youth player starts.

However, we have, in my opinion, the best crop of youth players we’ve ever had at Spurs. Not everyone rates Onomah, but for me him, Walker-Peters, Edwards, Japhet Tanganga and Oliver Skipp would be in our top 10 at youth level since I’ve been paying attention, with Kane and Winks in there too amongst a few others that have since moved on – Milos Veljkovic, Ryan Mason, and one of Nabil Bentaleb, Paul-Jose M’Poku, Massimo Luongo or Steven Caulker, all of whom excelled at the various youth levels they played at.

The perception is that it’s undoubtedly more difficult to bring players through whilst the team is towards the top of the league, and playing such high stakes matches (it was arguably easier for Pochettino at Southampton where there was less at stake). The fear is that youth players will make catastrophic mistakes which will lead to… what? Goals, sendings off, nervousness setting in… the inability to pass to that player because they might make an error… something. And yet we’ve seen Walker-Peters play 90 solid minutes of Premier League football on his full debut where he barely put a foot wrong, whilst expensive signing Serge Aurier (who I like incidentally) has been fairly error prone. We’ve seen Winks come in and look like he’s always been a regular, making fewer mistakes than other established senior professionals. Is it really more risky to play Marcus Edwards than, say, GK Nkoudou? Is it more risky playing Walker-Peters than Serge Aurier? I feel like I should also mention Moussa Sissoko now, but it feels like kicking a puppy. Ultimately all new players require just as much patience as youth players. But youth players are not going to let you down in all cases, and particularly not when introduced carefully – ten minutes from the bench here and there is how they should be integrated, just like Winks experienced initially.

The reality is that our best youth players are at a level where they could be trusted. Indeed, most of our Under-23 side could probably slot in and ‘do a job’ amongst ten other first teamers, such is the base level of talent drilled into them over a number of years. That’s not to say that I think all of them should play; that would be ludicrous. But I do think that it’s time to be far more brave in terms of integrating youngsters, particularly at this point in the season when fatigue is becoming an issue, and rotation is required. APOEL would have been an ideal situation for a good number of them.

Moving specifically back to Edwards, Pochettino seems to be sending a message: if you want to play, you have to show that you are ready. But what does that actually mean? Pochettino picks the team. Pochettino manages the squad and its myriad of personalities. The responsibility lies at least partially with the manager, and to defer it entirely to a 19-year old kid seems like imperfect management. If Pochettino is waiting to be 100% satisfied that Edwards is ‘ready’, then he could be waiting a while and risk one of our greatest homegrown talents leaving. Pochettino has a ready-made excuse should Edwards’ not make it: he wasn’t right mentally. He had issues with authority. He didn’t perform in training. And yet if he *does* make it, he claims all of the credit. That doesn’t feel right; this is a joint venture. Recent press conference comments have made it feel otherwise.

Ultimately in Edwards’ case I think this comes down to talent against mentality, and Pochettino’s flexibility with certain players and not others. I know well enough from my own profession that, as a manager, it’s impossible to treat everyone equally, because everyone is different with different motivations and values. But being seen to treat people consistently is important, and if Edwards sees concessions given to those who don’t play as well as him or those who act up and still get games, then I imagine he’s going to find that frustrating.

The non-selection of homegrown players isn’t just a Pochettino issue, it’s an English football issue. The mentality towards youth players *has* to change, because the levels of English and English-grown youth players have changed. Recent competitions suggest that England are producing some of the best youth players in the world; these are excellent footballers who will not let their teams down. And Spurs have one of the top four or five academies in the country, perhaps even top three. Signing a cheap foreign back-up is not necessary because we have *free* back-ups waiting in the wings who just need a chance to be taken on them. Nobody can convince me that Onomah wouldn’t have done at least a good a job as Sissoko in our midfield three given the same game-time, saving us £30m and probably gaining us a very valuable young English asset by this point in the season.

Stakes are high, sure, and it’ll take a bit of bravery for Pochettino to initially take the plunge. But if he fails to bring through some of our quality young players then he is failing on one of his key objectives.

I was encouraged to see his comments yesterday in light of the Champions League squad being a little tight in terms of overseas players: “Now we’re so focussed in trying to bring more English players through the academy. Or if we don’t have this profile, try to take advantage of the English market and add more English players here.” If he truly means that then now is the time to give bench places to some of our talented young players who need to be given a taste of first team football. My short term targets for Pochettino for the rest of the season would be: bring back Onomah in January and give him Sissoko’s minutes. Integrate Edwards into the first team squad and use him from the bench occasionally. Start Edwards, Onomah and Walker-Peters against AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup. Give Skipp and Tanganga debuts in that match if we’re comfortably ahead. None of that would put us at risk. It’s all achievable.

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July 22, 2017

Academy Players Feature In Tour Squad

A number of Academy players have travelled to the United States with the first team on the pre-season tour, and I thought I would write a brief round-up on each.

The selection includes second year Academy scholars Jon Dinzeyi and Tashan Oakley-Boothe, recent Academy graduates Brandon Austin, Alfie Whiteman and Jaden Brown, plus established Development Squad members Will Miller and Anthony Georgiou.

Mauricio Pochettino told the official site: “They’ve all impressed me in the first few weeks (of pre-season) and with John McDermott (Head of Player Development) we decided to give them the possibility to join us on the tour. It’s a big opportunity for them, a great opportunity to show their quality and why not, maybe we are seeing a player for the future of the first team?”

Below is a little about each of the involved players.

Brandon Austin
Age: 18 Position: Goalkeeper
Austin may have come onto your radar when he was lucky enough to train with the England squad at Hotspur Way last season. If not, then his performance against Chelsea in the Youth Cup Semi-Final at White Hart Lane may have caught your eye; he made a number of terrific saves and really helped to keep the score down. Austin has dual English/American nationality so he may even have joined a different queue at passport control!

Jaden Brown
Age: 18 Position: Left-back
Brown lost his place in the Under-18s to Nick Tsaroulla last year, which led to him being promoted to play Under-23s, perhaps ahead of time. He actually made the jump pretty well, and ended up performing better at that level, even scoring a couple of times. He has represented England at Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 levels, despite his club form being somewhat patchy, and is known as an athletic full-back who gets up and down well. My gut feel is that he’s here due to the injury to Rose more than anything, but it would be great to see him take his chance.

Jon Dinzeyi
Age: 17 Position: Centre-back
Dinzeyi is a versatile player, having come through as a winger before settling on centre-back. He’s tall — he must stand at around 6’4 — and quick across the ground. Last season he was a little error-prone, and his centre-back partner, Japhet Tanganga, was the one who often stood out, but Dinzeyi has the raw materials to be an interesting player, and I’m fascinated to see how he looks at this level.

Anthony Georgiou
Age: 20 Position: Winger
Georgiou, a Cypriot youth player, had a rough time with injuries last year, missing the majority of the season for the Under-23s. He came through the Under-18s as a traditional, touchline-hugging left winger but has ended up playing at left-back for the Under-23s on occasion, also switching to the right to play as an inverted winger. I was surprised to see his name on the squad list — particularly with Marcus Edwards and Sam Shashoua not included — but wonder whether this is, perhaps, a ‘shop window’ job, as Georgiou could do with a loan move to test his mettle.

Will Miller
Age: 21 Position: Attacking midfield
Miller will be a familiar face, after appearing for the first team both in pre-season of last year and also the post-season tour. He had a loan spell at Burton last year, which I summarised here, and impressed Nigel Clough with his attitude:

“It’s incredible, his attitude. Every training session, he is sharp, he is bright. We’ve managed to get him on the bench a few times, not get him on the pitch too often.

“It’s just a lovely, refreshing attitude these days. Tottenham actually wanted him back, they said they wanted him to go out to League One and play, they said that’d benefit him more. But he said, ‘I’m happy here, I like being around the first team and I want to try to help them stay up’.”

He’s primarily a number 10, but can cover right and left wing, and has played deeper too.

Tashan Oakley-Boothe
Age: 17 Position: Central midfield
Oakley-Boothe is an interesting player — he made a name for himself with some sparkling Under-16 performances, but then didn’t quite replicate his form at Under-18 level. It’s clear that there’s a lot of potential there and, as a result, he’s been involved with England at Under-16 and Under-17 age groups, and has trained with our first team often. He has played in all central midfield roles — 4, 8 and 10 — and I think this year might be a year of working out which suits him best. He’s a very good ball-carrier, and I suspect he might end up specialising as an 8, a bit like Josh Onomah.

Alfie Whiteman
Age: 18 Position: Goalkeeper
Whiteman was born and lives in Tottenham and has a tremendous reputation internationally. He has represented England at Under-16, Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 levels, and started at the Under-17 World Cup in 2015. He has been in several first-team travelling parties and even made the bench against Gillingham in the EFL Cup last season.

And finally, a word on those who have not travelled:

Marcus Edwards – having been part of the England Under-19 side that won the European Under-19 Championship, some have speculated that Edwards has been given time off to rest. My understanding (and I give no guarantees that it is correct) is that his exclusion is due to the fact that he has yet to extend his contract, which runs out at the end of the season. Spurs have a history of doing this with young players, and Milos Veljkovic — now a regular starting centre-back in the Bundesliga — suffered the same fate. However, Edwards was not involved in the match against Cambridge United on Friday night, which may back up the view that he is resting.

Kazaiah Sterling – Sterling did play a part against Cambridge, coming on as a second half substitute and apparently putting in a lively display. I was surprised that he did not travel, particularly in the absence of Son (and, therefore, a third striker) and given the fact that he travelled to Hong Kong post-season, and wonder whether this may mean that a loan move is pending.

Sam Shashoua – Georgiou’s selection ahead of Shashoua was interesting given that Shashoua was on the first team bench for the Leicester City game.

Luke Amos – Amos also travelled to Hong Kong at the end of last year, but the rumour is that he will be back out on loan for the coming year.

Japhet Tanganga – Tanganga is our best young centre-back in my opinion, and I was surprised that he did not travel and that his partner, Dinzeyi, did. Of course, we don’t see what happens on the training ground, so it could just be that Dinzeyi puts in more consistent showings there, but Tanganga has a lot of potential.

TJ Eyoma – along with Tanganga, Eyoma is one of the stars of the Under-18 side, and certainly performed at a level above Dinzeyi and also probably Oakley-Boothe last year. His ability to play at both right-back and centre-back might have made him an interesting proposition, but at least he got game-time against Cambridge.

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May 22, 2017

Loanee Round-Up

Spurs have used the loan system to send out a few players this year – primarily those that they are looking to sell, but also a couple of younger prospects. I shall start with four players who have now either left Spurs or look set to in the summer.

Federico Fazio – AS Roma (Serie A)

Fazio played 3766 minutes at Roma, including 2937 in Serie A. The transfer was reportedly made permanent in January, but that has not been confirmed by either club as yet. He has been a mainstay there and has become a popular figure.

Nabil Bentaleb – FC Schalke 04 (Bundesliga)

Bentaleb has played 3354 minutes for Schalke including 2463 in the Bundesliga during which he has five goals and five assists. It’s easy to see why Schalke have made the transfer permanent – good luck, Nabil, I for one shall miss you.

Clinton Njie – Marseille (Ligue 1)

Njie has played 1118 minutes for Marseille scoring four goals and getting an assist in Ligue 1. He has played mostly from the left wing, but occasionally as a centre-forward. He seems likely to make the move permanent in the summer, though it seems the deal is dependent on various clauses being met.

Nathan Oduwa – Peterborough United (League One)

Oduwa only managed 112 minutes across three competitions for Peterborough before joining Slovenian PrvaLiga club Olimpija Ljubljana on a permanent basis in January.

Many thanks to Alan Swan (@PTAlanSwann), Chief Sports Writer at the Peterborough Telegraph, who provided the following on his progress:

Nathan Oduwa was a strange signing as our team played a rigid midfield diamond formation for most of his time with us. They had no real use for wingers.

Oduwa didn’t start a single game, not even in the Checkatrade Trophy when the inexperienced and very young often played.

He showed very little in his nine substitute appearances, but most of them were very brief.

A disappointing season for Oduwa, after creating a bit of buzz last year. We wish him well in Slovenia.

Will Miller – Burton Albion (Championship)

Miller made 15 Championship appearances for Burton, accumulating 402 minutes in the league and another 32 in the FA Cup.

Many thanks to Joshua Murray (@JoshuaMurrayBM) — who is the Burton Albion writer from the Burton Mail — for this terrific write-up on Miller.

The Spurs website labels Will Miller a ‘versatile attacking midfielder’, but it was up front where the 20-year-old gained almost all of his game time on loan at Burton Albion.

His pace around the field up top made him a constant nuisance to defenders as he chased and harried them down out of possession, while allowing him to make dangerous runs into the channels when Albion attacked.

Miller also showed a good eye for finding space as a striker. That showed when he grabbed his first goal in senior football, notching a 94th-minute equaliser at Wolves in September. He hung back on the edge of the box as a cross from the right was looped towards the far post, before charging into a gap just as possession was knocked back into the danger area – and he was on hand to provide the cool finishing touch.

Brewers boss Nigel Clough has spoken highly of Miller’s presence in the Albion camp all season. He could have returned to Spurs in January when his initial loan deal expired, but decided to stay on and help the club’s bid for Championship survival, despite battling with six other loanees, with a limit of five loan spaces in a matchday squad.

His attitude around the training ground was apparently superb, and he will have learned plenty from playing alongside experienced forwards like Chris O’Grady and Luke Varney this term, having made a total of 16 first-team appearances.

If his work ethic on and off the field for the Brewers is anything to go by, he could well have a bright future ahead at White Hart Lane.

Miller has been included in the first-team squad for the friendly in Hong Kong later this week.

Luke McGee – Peterborough United (League One)

McGee ended the campaign with Peterborough’s Players’ Player of the Season award, having kept nine clean sheets in 39 matches in League One.

Many thanks again to Alan Swan (@PTAlanSwann), who provided the following about Luke:

Luke McGee is the best goalkeeper I’ve seen at Posh in the last 20 years.

Excellent shot-stopper (including four penalty saves), good control of his penalty area, decent with the ball at his feet and obvious passion for his team. Luke was never afraid to speak/shout his mind at defenders and officials.

Form did dip a little in the second-half of the campaign, but he finished the season strongly.

We’d love to have him back (Barry Fry has offered to take him on a free transfer with a huge sell-on clause which is good of him), but he is obviously destined for far better things than our little club.

Luke Amos – Southend United (League One)

Amos only played 125 minutes for Southend, but was well thought of by Phil Brown. Their promotion chase made it difficult for Brown to mess with a settled team.

After his football league debut, in which he played 51 minutes as they came back from 2-0 down to beat Walsall 3-2, Brown said “I was so disappointed for Luke Amos that I had to bring him off. He played well and kept the ball. He has a good career ahead of him.”

20-year old Amos is a busy, technically-sound central midfielder and another League One loan next year would be handy; particularly if he could head out at the beginning of the year an establish himself for a full season.

Connor Ogilvie – Stevenage (League Two)

Ogilvie re-joined Stevenage in January and made 18 appearances, playing 1619 minutes in League Two. Ogilvie was very popular amongst Stevenage fans as the responses to this tweet will testify.

After such a promising start to his career with glittering displays in Under-18 football, Ogilvie has stagnated somewhat. I think he has suffered a little from being equally comfortable at left-back and centre-back (though he played as an attacking left-back for Stevenage). As Spurs will likely need left-sided centre-back cover next season (assuming Wimmer leaves), it will be interesting to see whether Ogilvie, now 21, is taken on the pre-season tour, or whether he is sold in the summer; one would presume the latter.

Ryan Loft – Stevenage (League Two)

Loft played just 82 minutes across nine appearances, coming on at the end of matches.

With thanks to Neil Metcalfe (@Metcalficus) for his thoughts on Ryan Loft:

Loft never really worked. Looked a little overawed with the senior game. Had one glorious chance at Hartlepool not long after coming up but it came at him quick and was missed. Would have been a big confidence boost had it gone in. But given a longer loan spell somewhere next season it may be different.

He returned to play several Premier League 2 matches as he was not getting much game-time, and it will be interesting to see whether he is kept on to make up the numbers in the PL2 next season.

Shayon Harrison – Yeovil Town (League Two)

Harrison played 530 minutes for Yeovil across 16 appearances, scoring once.

Harrison was name-checked by Pochettino during the season which caused a bit of hype, but the 19-year old looks some way off a first team shot as it stands.

More of a natural number ten than an out and out nine, Harrison has consistently scored goals at youth level and now needs to ensure that the rest of his game can match his finishing.

Anton Walkes – Atlanta United (MLS)

Many thanks to Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC), a reporter for AJC, who provided the following on Walkes’ progress:

He has made two appearances for Atlanta United and is typically the third centerback in the rotation. He was unlucky to give up an own goal in the inaugural game against New York Red Bulls. He came in and played the second half of the loss at Montreal after Leandro Gonzalez Pirez received a red card at the end of the first half. He has shown athleticism and an understanding of manager Gerardo Martino’s system. The team’s schedule will become very compressed in September, which is when he may get a start or two. It will be interesting to see if Atlanta United tries to make the loan permanent in the winter transfer window.

Filip Lesniak – Slovan Liberec (Czech First League)

And finally our recent debutant, Lesniak. It did not work out for him at Slovan Liberec where he played just 48 minutes and returned early.

Despite making his Premier League debut against Leicester, Lesniak looks likely to leave in the summer when his contract ends. I could see him eventually doing well somewhere like Bournemouth where he’s a technically-sound, steady cog in a machine, but in all likelihood he will need to start lower and work his way back up the league structure.

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If you want to catch Onomah on his first start for Sheffield Wednesday, they're on Sky's match choice (red button).
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