Back by popular demand, Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing and ranking the top 10 youth prospects at Tottenham Hotspur to see which players have the best potential to follow current players like Harry Kane and Harry Winks, and former Spurs players like Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason, and Andros Townsend into the Tottenham first team. The rules for inclusion are as follows:
- The player had to be 21 or under on January 1, 2017
- The player cannot have seen significant match time with Tottenham's first team
Why did I take so long to write this article? I dunno. Blame the transfer window. Blame the Champions League. Blame Tim Sherwood. I got busy, I kept pushing this article further down and down the priority list. I don’t know why — I should be excited to write about our top Tottenham Hotspur prospect. Marcus Edwards deserves this article, after all.
Who is he?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Marcus Edwards no longer has an afro. We’ve been doing the “Messi with an afro” thing since he was 16 and actually had big hair. We even made a Ditty meme about him.
Let’s keep the Marcus Edwards hype machine going! pic.twitter.com/J00VX4hxD8— Cartilage Free Capt. (@cartilagefree) September 20, 2016
But he doesn’t have the hair any longer, so the title no longer fits. So instead, let’s go with Mauricio Pochettino’s nickname for him: “Mini Messi.”
Marcus Edwards is an 18-year old attacking midfielder from Camden, London. He is exceptional. He joined Spurs’ youth setup at the age of 8 and has been dominating at virtually every level since. He has caps at the England U16, U17, U18, U19, and U20 levels, and he played an important role coming off the bench in helping England win the U19 European Championships.
Edwards is considered one of the finest English talents of his generation, and that is not overstating the fact. He’s so good that plenty of other clubs (including, supposedly, Bayern Munich and Barcelona) have been sniffing around him since he was in his early teens, trying to poach him away from Spurs. He signed a professional contract with Tottenham after protracted negotiations last summer and with the promise of first team minutes. He got his Spurs first team debut in the EFL Cup match against Gillingham last fall where forced an outstanding save, but he picked up a severe ankle injury soon after and missed a lot of time last season. He got healthy — but not fit — just before the U19 Euros, which is probably why he was reduced to a late game substitute.
Now he’s fully healthy, and he’s once again on the cusp of Tottenham’s first team. We haven’t seen much of him yet, but I expect we will.
What can he do?
He can do a lot. For starters, he did this in the U19 Euros this summer.
He can also do this.
Last year against Gillingham he did this.
Just a couple of days ago he did this against Dortmund’s U19s.
And if you want more, here’s every one of his touches from that Dortmund match.
Do you get the Messi comparisons now? Edwards is not tall — just 5’5” — but he has a very low center of gravity, an impressive motor, and tons of skill with the ball at his feet, which means that he can absolutely juke defenders out of their boots when he’s on his game. There are tons of other highlights available on YouTube. They’re all good.
Not only does Edwards have mad skills, but he also possesses a very good outside shot. He’s left footed and is just as likely to pull up and fire a 20-yard curler into the corner of the net as he is to break your ankles and pass it in. That’s not to say he’s selfish — Edwards plays with his head up and has an excellent grasp of the game. He’ll look for open teammates if he’s not confident that he can do what he wants with the ball.
Edwards is, without hyperbole, the most purely talented youngster I have ever seen come through Tottenham’s system since I’ve been a fan. Possibly ever.
Where can he go?
Honestly? As far as he damn well wants. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he is going to be a monster talent in the Premier League. English football isn’t really known for producing the kind of raw dribbling skill that Edwards has. Edwards’ mother is from Cyprus, but spiritually he’s a Spaniard.
If he’s that good, you say, why isn’t he getting first team minutes now? I’d attribute that to a combination of Pochettino being cautious, and Edwards still being somewhat small. While he can dribble the socks off of virtually anybody, we all know there are players in the Premier League who would like nothing better than to body-check the crap out Spurs’ new hotness. Edwards isn’t going to out-muscle anybody, so he needs to get by on guile and skill, which he has in buckets.
I suspect that Edwards would’ve gotten more game time last season if he hadn’t been injured, which is unfortunate since a couple of good performances like against Gillingham and he might have come close to really cracking the league first team like Harry Winks. But he had a very good summer with England’s U19s, and he’s poised to get some minutes in the early rounds of the cups. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t at least make the bench next week against Barnsley. I hope he starts.
The key to keeping a player like Edwards is to make sure that he stays engaged, motivated, challenged, and valued. The reality is that Edwards is the kind of player who knows he’s desired by other clubs, and if he doesn’t feel good about his future prospects or his importance he will move on to a place that will play him. Pochettino is stubborn enough that he’s not going to throw a kid into the fire just because his entourage thinks he should, but it would surprise nobody if he gets some cup minutes or even makes a few Premier League benches before the end of the season.
And really, it comes down to when Pochettino thinks he’s ready, and there’s every indication that he’s being especially cautious with Edwards, considering his ability.
'[Edwards] is a very good prospect and potentially he can be a top player, but we need to be patient and tell him that he has a lot of talent, enough talent to be a top player, a great player. But now it's how he builds his future, that's very important. And it's our responsibility to tell him.'
We’ve been arguing since the transfer window ended that Spurs really should’ve signed another attacking midfielder. What if... just what if that attacking midfield “signing” turns out to be Marcus Edwards?