Skipp impresses on Premier League debut

While a late 1-0 win over Burnley on a cold and wet December afternoon is not often something to get excited about at Tottenham, there was hope offered in the shape of Oliver Skipp.

Mauricio Pochettino has never been afraid to turn to youth in a time of need.

With Eric Dier sidelined through illness, youngster Skipp was the surprise inclusion making his full Premier League debut at the heart of Tottenham’s midfield at Wembley.

The 18-year-old, the 13th youth player to make a senior debut under Pochettino, was handed a task which has so brilliantly been fulfilled by fellow academy graduate Harry Winks, a shining example for players such as Skipp to look at, on occasion this season. Sitting at the base of a midfield three, with Moussa Sissoko and Dele Alli just ahead of him, Skipp sat, dictated and was on hand to snuff out any sign of a break from Burnley.

Skipp, who has drifted in and out of international selection with England’s youth sides, was not looking to hide behind the big names around him, even after Sissoko had to step in to cut out a chance after the youngster was caught on the ball after just four minutes.


From there, he didn’t look back.

The three minutes from off the bench against Southampton was never going to be enough to assess if he had enough for this level, but in the way he intelligently drifted between the base of midfield and a back three of sorts, slotting in between Ben Davies and Toby Alderweireld, Skipp showed an understanding beyond his years.

He does, it should go without saying, have a lot to learn still. He was confident in showing for the ball, but on occasion could have done with the authority to rule himself out of being an option and avoid unnecessary pressure on the ball. At times in the first half, too, he often elected for the short and simple square to Sissoko or Alli as opposed to something more ambitious, but began to offer glimpses of his full array after the break, spraying a fine diagonal over to Kieran Trippier.

When called upon at the back the slight but tenacious midfielder was not to be messed with, either. Happy to throw himself in the way of any claret and blue shirt making a rare foray into Tottenham territory.

After becoming the first team in Premier League history not to add a new player to their squad since the inception of the summer transfer window this year, Pochettino was always facing a slightly tougher task than most top six managers. Furthermore, the Argentine this week conceded that it may well be the same case next month, admitting January is the most difficult time to pick out new recruits and that he would not be overly concerned should there be no new faces at their Hotspur Way training ground come February.

If there is to be anyone arriving, a long-term replacement for Mousa Dembele is likely to be high on the list of priorities. The Belgian is not expected to be at the club come the start of next season, with injuries steepening his decline this term, though whether that is a January exit with a fee or on a free with the 31-year-old’s contract up in the summer is unclear.

Skipp would have to go some way to be able to fill the void left by the talented midfielder, who has moved all around midfield from being an enforcer, to a creator or the man to dictate a game.

Should, though, his performance against the Clarets be followed by just a few more as assured as that this afternoon at Wembley, any anxiety Pochettino would have over another window without an arrival could well soothed thanks to another academy success story.

(Evening Standard)

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