Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that he is considering starting 20-year-old midfielder Harry Winks in what would be his first Premier League start against Arsenal, one of the fiercest games on the footballing calendar. Pochettino has limited options in midfield heading into the fixture due to injury complications and Moussa Sissoko’s suspension and young holding midfielder Winks could be set to follow in the footsteps of Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb, who got their careers off the ground with debuts against Arsenal in the Premier League and the FA Cup several seasons ago. The Argentinian manager has been impressed with Winks’ performances both as a substitute in the Premier League and the Champions League but also in the two starts he made in the EFL Cup this season, the latter against Liverpool at Anfield. But will it be too big a risk to start such an inexperienced, young player in a match which is of great significance to the supporters?
Why Winks could be set for Premier League debut
Mousa Dembele’s injury snag has caused Pochettino to reassess his options heading into the weekend with the powerful Belgian limping off early in the first half during Spurs’ Champions League defeat to Bayer Leverkusen midweek. Pochettino was placed in a similar position in his first season in the dugout of White Hart Lane and, with Dembele picking up a slight injury, he handed Ryan Mason his first Premier League start in the North London Derby at the Emirates. The game finished 1-1 and Mason went on to become a key part of the 2014-15 Tottenham side that reached the League Cup final and secured European action once again. Pochettino has been placed in a similar position and, with Dier likely to be deputising at centre back in the absence of Toby Alderweireld, the Spurs manager may turn to Winks to thwart the Arsenal attack.
Whilst Pochettino has been appearing to favour a 4-1-4-1 formation in recent weeks, it would be expected that he reverts back to his 4-2-3-1 system for the Arsenal game. Despite Victor Wanyama fulfilling the role of being the sole defensive midfielder superbly in the commanding 2-0 victory over Manchester City earlier this season, Pochettino may be seeking added security in defence to allow the forwards more freedom to regain their confidence following their recent collective dip in form. Additionally, the fact that the game is at the Emirates may force Pochettino to play with two defensive-minded midfielders as it is unlikely that Wanyama will be able to nullify Arsenal’s attack alone with the pitch at the Emirates being considerably bigger (105×68 metres compared to 100×67) than that of White Hart Lane and without the aid of 30,000 Spurs fans creating a hostile atmosphere to act as the twelfth man in demoralising opponents.
Winks was also one of the only positives coming out of the 2-1 away defeat to Liverpool in the EFL Cup earlier this campaign. His passing accuracy was greater than that of any other player who started the game and, coupled with his clever distribution, Winks looked capable of becoming a first team player at Tottenham. Winks was deployed alongside fellow England midfielder Eric Dier in a holding midfield position and, with Pochettino having limited options in this area of the pitch, Winks could be set to start alongside the physical presence of Victor Wanyama. Winks’ distribution skills also allow him to be the ideal partner for Wanyama; Dembele has the ability to be more forward minded and whilst it had been questioned whether Dier and Wanyama were too similar to play alongside each other, Winks and Wanyama would offer that defensive solidity with Wanyama’s strength but also some attacking intention with Winks’ distribution.
Any other options?
An option for Pochettino would be to deploy Dele Alli in a deeper role alongside Wanyama. However, with Alli performing better further forward it would be unwise to move him further back, as it would limit his attacking talent. Furthermore, if Alli were to play alongside Wanyama it would force Christian Eriksen into playing the number 10 position behind the striker and with the Dane lacking confidence and form, it would make more sense to start Alli in that position.
Another option would be to start Wimmer or Carter-Vickers in defence and allow Dier to play in his favoured position alongside Victor Wanyama. Pochettino will however be unwilling to do this as Wimmer has fallen out of favour and with Carter-Vickers yet to feature in the Premier League at all, it would be very risky to start him considering the form of Arsenal’s attack and the significance of the game.Embed from Getty Images
Everything points to Harry Winks making his Premier League debut at the Emirates and, unless Dembele returns to full fitness, we shouldn’t be surprised if Pochettino does opt to go with this young, English prospect, given his reputation for placing his trust in young talent.
Will Pochettino start Winks in such an important game as the North London derby? Can Spurs revive their season with a positive result this Sunday? Should Harry Kane start the game? Let me know what you think either in the comments section below or send me a tweet @Hotspur_Huddle