Tom Carroll is, without doubt, Tottenham’s most highly rated young player. He has developed significantly since graduating to Spurs’ first team squad in 2010, and his huge potential has excited the Tottenham community. Carroll is a ball-playing, creative central midfield player, in the same mould as Andrés Iniesta and Luka Modrić and many believe that he will be a star at White Hart Lane in the future. He has impeccable vision, fantastic passing ability and range and is surprisingly brave in the tackle for a player with a build as slight as his. He has performed admirably whenever asked to appear for Spurs from the bench, and his performance away from home against Basel last season in particular was superb and the can be looked upon with a great deal of optimism. I genuinely believe that if he is managed properly, Tom can become an extremely good midfielder, and one who is capable of being a key player for Tottenham for years to come. Not since Ledley King have we produced a player from our own academy who has gone on to be a ‘hero’ amongst the fans, and subsequently made a huge number of appearances for the club. Raved about youngsters like Jamie O’Hara, John Bostock and Ryan Mason have fallen by the wayside in recent seasons, and Carroll will want to avoid the same fate, and reach his full potential. Carroll certainly has what it takes to do this in my opinion, but his current situation at Spurs is slightly concerning.
At the age of 21, it would appear that Tom Carroll has time on his hands to become a starter for Spurs. However, I believe he really has quite the opposite. The sheer build-up of players in Carroll’s position has restricted the midfielder to just 10 starts for Tottenham since 2010 (not one of them coming in the Premier League), and while his involvement became slightly more frequent under Andre Villas-Boas, I still don’t believe Tom will see as much game-time as he would like in the 2013/14 season either. Mousa Dembele, Sandro, Lewis Holtby, Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore all stand in Carroll’s way at present, with Paulinho or Fredy Guarin potentially being added to this list in the summer. Assuming Andre Villas-Boas finally makes the switch to a 4-3-3 set-up next season, Carroll may also have Gylfi Sigurdsson to usurp in midfield. Sigurdsson played tremendously well in this system two seasons ago at Swansea, and will make a strong claim for a starting role. While many believe some of these players, namely Huddlestone, Parker and Livermore, maybe sold in the Summer, this is far from guaranteed. One only has to look at how long it took Tottenham to finally let go of David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas to realise that selling football players isn’t quite as simple as it seems.
Our build-up of central midfielders is very worrying for Tom, as he faces the potential of having as many as eight senior players all vying for a start in his position come the start of the season. Whatever happens in the summer transfer market, Tom Carroll will not be guaranteed first-team football, or even a place on the bench for that matter. Despite what anybody may say, this is extremely concerning. Tom will turn 22 during next season’s Premier League. When a player turns 22, I feel that they move on from being a ‘young player’ and becomes a ‘maturing player’. A maturing player really should be looking to move to, or be part of a set-up, which sees them playing regular football. Tom is approaching a crucial year of development, and this will surely be recognised by the Tottenham coaching hierarchy. I’m not suggesting that we will see anything as drastic as a transfer request from Tom in the near future, but there really is only so long that a player who is ambitious as Carroll, can sit around being the fifth or sixth-choice in their position at their club, especially if this is affecting their chances internationally.
Carroll was bizarrely left out of Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21 squad for the European championships this summer, despite featuring regularly in Pearce’s squads throughout the season. I can only assume that Stuart Pearce chose to pick players who have been featuring regularly for their club teams, and Tom really wasn’t doing this. As a result, Carroll missed out on rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s best young players and also the chance to gain invaluable experience representing his country alongside fellow Spurs youngsters like Steven Caulker, Danny Rose and Adam Smith. Missing out on this squad was a massive blow to Carroll, and will only make him assess his position in the Spurs squad even further. Carroll will want to assert himself as a first-team player at his boyhood club Spurs in years to come, but looking at the position he is in now, this situation looks very far off.
A loan move could be just what Carroll needs to really go to that next level as a player, and could be explored as a possibility by Andre Villas-Boas this summer. A team like Southampton for example would be perfect for his development. Although the Saints already have midfielders like Morgan Schneiderlain, Jack Cork and Steven Davis on their books, manager Mauricio Pochettino may feel an added injection of creativity could pose more of a threat in certain games. Carroll could be a useful weapon for Southampton, and a player with his vision and eye for a pass would be a dream player to play alongside for Gaston Ramirez, Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert and the rest of Southampton’s attacking talent. Of course, Southampton is just one suggestion. I believe Carroll is good enough to feature a great deal for most teams in the bottom half of the Premier League, and a move on loan to one of these teams would really help him. Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton, Steven Caulker and Danny Rose have all been shipped out to Premier League teams in recent seasons, played regularly, and come back as all-round better players. I’m sure Tom himself would be open to the opportunity of playing regularly in the best league in the world, and this is a move I would very much like to see happen.
If Andre Villas-Boas feels that Tom Carroll is good enough to stay with the first team squad, I will really want to see him feature regularly in our team; not just coming on to affect games as a substitute, but starting games also. If his is used as infrequently as last campaign, I feel that we will have not made the best out of a crucial year of development for the player and we could suffer the consequences in years to come. There is by no means any need to panic about Carroll’s situation at Tottenham just yet, but as I said earlier, there is only so long a player, can sit around being the fifth or sixth-choice in their position at their club. Make your decision, Andre.
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