I knew this would happen as soon as I released the preview and projected lineup article. Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted today in a press conference ahead of Sunday's North London Derby that an injury to Mousa Dembele could result in him handing a full Premier League debut to midfielder and Spurs academy graduate Harry Winks.
"Maybe, maybe yes [he could start]. We need to assess Mousa Dembele first of all to decide but Harry's doing very well, not only against Leverkusen but Liverpool in the cup and before.
"From the pre-season, you remember in Australia he played very well against Atletico Madrid and Juventus. In that moment he started to build his future and I started to see we can trust in him and this is very good news for us."
This isn't the first time that Mauricio Pochettino has used the North London Derby to give a Premier League debut to an academy graduate. In the fall of 2014, Poche surprised everyone by starting Ryan Mason at the Emirates in his Tottenham debut when Dembele was also dealing with another injury. You may recall that Mason impressed in Spurs' preseason tour to the United States; the Arsenal match ended in a 1-1 draw and Mason became a regular in Spurs' midfield that year.
Poche was reminded of Mason and asked if there was anything similar between Mason's and Winks' situations:
"Maybe we repeat that, it's coincidence because there were different reasons but maybe he [Winks] has the opportunity to play.
"It's one of the possibilities but remember it was the same, with Mousa before that game also being a doubt. I remember and I decided to play with Mason."
That would be exciting news and an incredible opportunity for Winksy, and it would be intriguing to see how he copes in the crucible of a super intense rivalry match against Arsenal at the Emirates. However, while I'd like to see Winksy get his chance, it's a bit of a gamble.
The 4-1-4-1 formation worked so well against Manchester City because Spurs were not dominating possession but instead looked to counterattack with pace and numbers. That is what I suspect we might see on Sunday against Arsenal. If that's the case, and especially with Erik Lamela and his manic press absent from the side, Spurs could opt to sit deeper, play a little Diet Pulisball to try and stem the bleeding, and hit Arsenal back on counters. Winksy doesn't make as much sense in that scenario.
On the other hand, Spurs are going up against an opponent in Arsenal that loves to have the ball. Taking out a central midfielder could make the game super open and chaotic, but it could also spell disaster as Wanyama and Dier in particular come under more pressure. Winksy could be a stabilizing influence in a two-man central midfield, though he would be better paired with someone like Eric Dier instead of Victor Wanyama so he wouldn't have the burden of being the only good passer in the middle.
Obviously Winks starting depends on both Dembele's overall fitness by Sunday morning, and Pochettino's tactical plan. But I've been really impressed, despite the small sample size, from what I've seen from Harry so far this season. A Premier League debut could be the break he needs to make a statement and stake a claim as a future Tottenham Hotspur starter.