If there’s a bright spot for Tottenham Hotspur over the past week, it’s been the emergence of Harry Winks as a potential option in Spurs’ midfield. After a fantastic coming-out party and a goal against West Ham, Winks turned that experience into a starting role in Spurs’ Champions League game against Monaco on Tuesday.
Now, Mauricio Pochettino says that he might even be in line for a start against Chelsea on Saturday, and challenged the 20-year old to show that he belongs in Spurs’ midfield “for the next ten years.”
"We'll see if we decide to put him in the starting XI. It's true that I'm very happy with his performance in two big games against West Ham and Monaco. His performances were very good and I'm very happy with him. Then we'll see if the decision is that he's in the XI or not.
"Always it's to give the opportunity to play. It's about trying to know when the players are ready to compete. To avoid the possibility of the person failing if you give them the opportunity of playing in the first team.
"Now it's the most difficult thing to keep the level and try to show that they can be a regular and consistent in the starting XI in Tottenham. He needs to show that he can be a potential player for the next few years or ten years at Tottenham. It is not difficult to arrive to play one game, but to show that you are consistent and a regular in playing for the first team.”
Winksy’s star is on the rise, but the challenge may be as much to find out how he may fit into Spurs’ tactics and at the expense of whom. When fully healthy, Spurs have a good stable of central midfielders that include Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, and Tom Carroll. Of those players, Winks is probably viewed more as a compliment to or rotation for Dembele as a midfield shuttler.
It’s hard to see Winksy getting into the side over a healthy Mousa Dembele in a 4-2-3-1, but his emergence could see Pochettino continue to tinker with his tactics; Winks excelled against West Ham in that narrow midfield diamond formation and could also be very good in a 4-3-3 or similar formation.
We’ve seen promising young Tottenham midfielders eventually fail to live up to their initial promise – say hi, Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason – but this far Winks has grabbed his opportunity with both hands. If he can continue his strong run of play, the question becomes not whether to include Winks, but how. We’ll see if that continues with a start against Chelsea on Saturday.