It’s been a while since we checked in on, or even thought about, Josh Onomah. The young Tottenham Hotspur midfielder impressed this summer as England won the U20 World Cup, but has found minutes hard to come by at Spurs, and Mauricio Pochettino shipped him off to Aston Villa for a season-long loan.
Joshy’s arrival at Villa Park caused quite a bit of excitement, and Onomah has gotten a lot of minutes as the Villains chase promotion back to the Premier League. But it hasn’t always been a smooth road for him in the Midlands this season.
We decided to talk to James Rushton, managing editor at SB Nation’s Villa blog 7500 to Holte to get an idea of how Josh is doing this season, and whether there are any takeaways from his loan.
After an initial period of excitement, Villa fans seem to have cooled on Joshy. Why is that?
Josh started really hot, and came over with a great deal of hype. Initially, he impressed and he didn’t stop. The issue was, he was a good player in a Villa side that didn’t know its best lineup, and didn’t even know it’s own identity. It was thus very easy for someone to step up to a plate, since nobody else was. I hope that doesn’t detract from my, or your, opinion of him - but it was very simple for him to stand out, and perform well, when barely anyone was. There’s a bit of unrest on our side that Josh didn’t kick on when the side started to really get going, and that’s testament to our high opinions of him as a player, we just wanted to see that little bit more. He hasn’t always had the best run under Steve Bruce, and even played as a striker for us, so I don’t think it’s unfair to put all the blame upon Josh’s shoulders. On a final note, there’s a growing opinion that Onomah doesn’t ‘try hard’ enough for us. I think it’s grossly unfair to state that, and while he has looked out of sorts at times, I wouldn’t say its to do with lack of effort, but that he sometimes gets a bit ‘lost’ in games.
What do your eyes tell you that these numbers (in the sidebar) don’t?
I respect Ted Knutson’s hard work and don’t really want to argue against StatsBomb’s presentation here. I’d just want to see more of ‘ballwinner’ Josh than ‘run to the corner flag’ Josh. I think the stats, especially as presented by the good folk over there are promising, and my rating for Josh thus far would be about a 5.5 or 6 out of ten, which isn’t at all bad. It’s promising.
What’s the thing Onomah has improved the most from the start of the season to now? What does he struggle with the most?
I really rate Josh’s ability to pick out a special pass, and he’s gotten a lot better at a first-time pass as well. In our last game against Reading, he came on for a cameo, got himself involved and got the game going again with some fancy work in opening up the final-third. That’s the Josh I want to see, the Josh who gets stuck into the trench battle and runs the show. Not the sideshow he can sometimes become when he’s deployed in an ineffectual position, or when he is pressed. That’s when he will struggle, when a team actually values him as a threat, and will try to press and tackle him.
Josh sees himself as a CM but apart from the U20 World Cup with England we’ve never really seen him get a run out there. From what you’ve seen of him this year, could he play there? Should he play there, or are we just making excuses for why he’s failed?
Josh shouldn’t play ANYWHERE except as a CM. The deeper, the better - in my opinion. The issue is, he’s not going to do that at Villa, because there are three players who are better than him in that position for Villa, and one of them is Jack Grealish. Josh isn’t bad, but he’s going to need to find his level and get some game time as a centre midfielder. That’s unless Tottenham want to deploy him there for a run of games, but that’s not going to happen, is it? Maybe another loan spell at a club that needs a bombarding centre?
Based on everything you’ve seen, do you think Onomah has a future with a Champions League-caliber Tottenham team? And if not, is he a Premier League footballer?
I truly believe Josh will make it. He’s got a good set of tools on him that will enable him to make the grade, but will he get his chance? Will it be at Tottenham? That’s up to you guys. I hope he does, because it would be nice for Villa to have played some small part in his development. As for Champions League, who knows? Look how far people like Dele Alli and Harry Kane have come on. You’ve been there before with players like Josh Onomah and it hasn’t turned out badly, at all? Has it? At the very least, I think he’ll make the grade at a Premier League level - and I hope it’s with one of us. Let’s just see if he kicks on from here, though! At any rate, thanks for letting us have him for the season, as he’s provided a few good memories so far. I just wish it could have been more, but hey - there’s still a few games left down here.