Tottenham Hotspur are known to be frugal in the transfer market when compared to their rivals for a top-four finish. They’re also the club many consider to have the most patience in the Premier League. Spurs really bought into the idea that developing players was the way to go to compete with the riches of both Manchester clubs and Chelsea.
There have been hiccups. Roberto Soldado and Moussa Sissoko are two black marks in the Daniel Levy notebook. For the most part, however, they would rather give youth a chance before delving into the transfer market. It’s why reports linking the club with a move for Everton’s contract rebel Ross Barkley seem uncharacteristic.
Yes, he’s 23 years old and his ability is there for all to see. And yes, due to his contract situation at Goodison Park, he could be available at a knockdown price. A team like Spurs, with aspirations of competing both domestically as well as in Europe, need squad depth.
For most teams in their situation, signing Barkley would be shrewd business. He’s versatile, he’d bring experience – over 150 appearances in the Premier League – and there’s a lot of potential just looking to be fulfilled.
Recent reports have suggested Mauricio Pochettino sees the England international operating in a deeper role, despite the fact he’s impressed on Merseyside in more of an attacking midfield position. Barkley could be viewed as a long-term alternative to Mousa Dembele. After all, the duo do share a number of traits.
However, as alluded to earlier, Spurs aren’t like most teams in the top flight. They don’t throw money at something when they can put their faith in youngsters. Pochettino has two midfield talents at his disposal in the shape of Harry Winks and Joshua Onomah.
The former made his England debut in the 1-0 win over Lithuania yesterday and looked comfortable in a midfield two alongside Jordan Henderson in a new look 3-4-3 system. The 21-year-old used the ball well, completing 96 per cent of the 99 passes he attempted, and didn’t look out of place with more experienced players.
Winks also completed two dribbles, won two tackles and was dispossessed just once. He looked at home.
What a finish! ?
Josh Onomah puts England ahead with a with a superb, dipping strike… pic.twitter.com/zG8MhsI2Yx
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) October 6, 2017
Onomah caught the eye playing for the England Under-21s against Scotland, scoring the opener in a 3-1 win for the Three Lions. It was a strike of sublime technique and really showcased his class.
The on-loan Aston Villa midfielder is relishing his exposure to regular first-team action this season and the confidence is evident in his play. He’s scored twice for Steve Bruce’s men in the Championship and has been a real standout.
Speaking to the London Evening Standard after his wonder-strike, Onomah revealed the move to Villa Park has helped him improve: “Going to Villa is making a huge impact on my performance when I’m with my country.”
He signed a new four-year deal with the Premier League runners-up before agreeing to go out on loan. The move came as a surprise. Just months earlier Pochettino had revealed to The Guardian that he preferred to keep young players in the squad to oversee their development.
But Onomah is proving it’s perhaps better for talented youngsters to experience first-team football on a regular basis to toughen them up for the rigours of the Premier League.
Barkley’s arrival would impact the development of both players. People may argue that it’s similar to Serge Aurier’s signing in the summer, which directly impacting Kyle Walker-Peters’ involvement in the first team, but it’s different.
Aurier is already considered to be one of the best in Europe. Before this season, 20-year-old Walkers-Peters hadn’t made a first-team appearance in the Premier League. The potential is no doubt there, but full-backs/wing-backs are a key part of Pochettino’s system so the manager wants class there, and rightly so.
Barkley, on the other hand, is still kind of raw. He’s turning 24 years old in December and, though the transfer fee isn’t a huge outlay, in the region of £20-30million, he’s going to want fairly decent wages.
There are question marks over Barklay’s attitude too, while Winks and Onomah are, in a way, blank canvases perfect to be moulded into the style of player suited to Spurs.
Winks especially looks like he has the potential to be one of the best in the Premier League in a few years: he’s press resistant, he breaks the lines both with and without the ball and is diligent in his defensive work – he’s not your stereotypical English midfielder.
If Pochettino was targeting a more ready-made player in the middle third who would almost guarantee a positive impact from the off, then there would be an argument to be made that there’s sense in buying someone.
But Barkley doesn’t offer that. He’s not impressed while playing centre-midfield for Everton in the past, but has thrived in a more attacking role.
Is it really worth rocking the boat by bringing in Barkley when there’s already talent in the squad just waiting to be utilised? Spurs should stick to what’s served them well in recent years.