Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing the Tottenham Hotspur first team players after the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. Up next: midfielder Josh Onomah.
Appearances: 12 (5 EPL, 3 FA, 2 League Cup, UCL 2)
What went right?
Unfortunately, the answer here is “pretty much nothing.” Heading into the season, Onomah was widely expected to be the next Spurs youngster to break out of the youth team into the senior side.
He never really got much of a chance on the field, unfortunately. The summer signings of Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou meant that Onomah didn’t have many opportunities to play in the wide attacking role he filled last season. Additionally, the signing of Victor Wanyama and emergence of Harry Winks meant that he didn’t get chances in midfield either.
The result is that Onomah hardly played this season.
What went wrong?
We already mentioned the biggest problems: Spurs signed players over the summer who played in the roles Onomah might have filled.
That said, Sissoko and N’Koudou did not play well enough off the bench to keep Onomah out permanently. Pochettino has happily promoted youth ahead of veterans when he feels it is called for—Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason ahead of Etienne Capoue and Paulinho (and Dembele), Harry Kane ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado, Dele Alli ahead of Bentaleb and Mason, and so on.
For that reason, I suspect there is more to Onomah’s issues this past season than simply getting pushed down the depth chart by big money summer signings. It’s not like Pochettino to stick with players who obviously are not getting the job done, but that’s what he did with Moussa Sissoko as our top backup in the wide attacking role. Under normal circumstances, you’d expect Onomah to have taken that spot. He didn’t. That’s a concern.
Well, here’s the interesting thing: Onomah just put together a scorcher of a performance at the U-20s World Cup. You can see highlights below:
Compiled all of Josh Onomah's U20 World Cup performances and put them into one video. Been extremely impressed with him all tournament. pic.twitter.com/HET5Z4zS64— Jake. (@YedIin) June 11, 2017
So here’s the fun question:
Where should Onomah be used? Based on this summer, it seems midfield is the obvious place. But then that puts the club in a hard position:
- The only way to find out if Onomah is good enough to play midfield in the Premier League and Champions League is to give him chances to play there. Therefore: Don’t spend big on someone who knocks him down the depth chart.
- However: If Onomah is not good enough for midfield and Spurs do not buy a midfielder, that means we’re headed into a season likely to run up to as many as 60 fixtures with four midfielders, two of whom should not play together (Dier and Wanyama), one of whom is still fairly unproven (Winks), and one of whom is injury prone and aging (Dembele).
The solution Ben proposed in the Writer’s Room is that we sign someone like a Thomas Lemar, who can play CM or CAM. That would provide cover for us if Onomah didn’t work out in midfield. But the obvious risk there is similar to the one we ran into this season with using Eric Dier in multiple roles: If your backup CM is also your backup CB and you get injuries at both CB and CM... you’re screwed.
The same problem exists if we sign a utility guy who can play central midfield and right back. If it turns out that Kieran Trippier is #ActuallyBad, then that utility guy is now our first choice right back and we can’t use him in midfield.
Of course, there is an obvious solution here: If Joshy is a good Premier League midfielder, all this discussion may be beside the point. So let’s just do that.