Oliver Skipp is an example to all academy players at Hotspur Way that, with the correct attitude, you can make it into the first team.
Of course, Skipp has always been a very talented player, but if you listen to what his coaches have said about him in the past, it is his attitude and professionalism that have endeared him to the right people.
The quote that particularly stood out to me was when Mourinho called him a future captain, and said how impressed he had been with the youngster back in 2020 (Express).
What has improved?
After his successful loan spell at Norwich, Skipp has struggled to really cement his place in the starting eleven.
He has been hampered by multiple injuries during this time but now, since Bentancur’s horrendously unlucky injury, he has been playing regularly and seriously impressing the coaches, especially during our 2-0 win over Chelsea when he scored and was awarded MOTM.
I do think that he has surprised a lot of fans during this time too. Many were worried about his lack of ability on the ball, saying that he couldn’t fill in for Bentancur.
But how wrong they were. I think Skipp has developed his game significantly in the last year or so, especially with the ball at his feet and on the half-turn.
I always knew that he had tremendous ball recovery skills and excelled in off-the-ball work, but over the past few months his range of passing and awareness on the turn have been outstanding.
His pass for Richarlison’s disallowed goal against Forest last weekend was a perfect example of this, and he has been hitting such long diagonal passes with ease.
Another area he has developed has been his upper body strength, you can clearly see he has been putting in a shift in the gym and he looks more than up for the physical battle of the Premier League.
What still needs to improve?
However, he is still far from the finished article and one area I believe he needs to improve on is his communication on the pitch.
He has always been a quiet character off the pitch and you can see how that translates to his demeanour on the pitch.
It is not a major issue at the moment as he is a young and developing footballer, playing next to a leader in Hojbjerg, but as he gets older and more experienced he will start to carry more of this responsibility as a more senior player and will need to adapt accordingly.
I believe he can do this and this will happen naturally as he grows in character and becomes more established in the team.
Another area of his game that must improve is his discipline – he has a tendency to pick up yellow cards.
He seems to get caught out at least once in every game when he disconnects from Hojbjerg or whoever he is playing with, getting drawn out of position.
This sometimes leads him to commit a rash lunge or to make a tactical foul. It is an area that will again improve with experience and I’m confident it is something he will learn to curb pretty quickly.
England prospect –
In my opinion, Oliver Skipp should be at the front of the queue of players Southgate is looking at to receive their first cap.
The players that he is competing with for a place in the squad are Conor Gallagher, Kalvin Phillips, James Ward- Prowse and Jordan Henderson.
At present, Gallagher cannot even get a game for a struggling Chelsea team, and when he does he look well below the standard required for a top-level midfielder.
Kalvin Phillips made one of the worst career decisions I have witnessed in recent times, with his move to City, and he has hardly played since his transfer.
JWP is a brilliant set piece taker but certainly doesn’t have the all-round game that Skipp does, and Jordan Henderson is only in the squad as an established ‘favourite’, perhaps more for his influence on other players, and is miles past his best (I’m sure even Liverpool fans would agree with me).
Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham are England’s two best midfielders, and I think they would rightly keep Skipp out of the first eleven at present.
But I do genuinely believe he is a great squad option for Southgate.
The future of the Tottenham midfield –
One reason for optimism at Spurs is how our midfield is taking shape for the future.
Bissouma, Skipp, Sarr, Bentancur and Hojbjerg are all great players who offer different things to the team, and I don’t think it is an area that needs investment anytime soon.
I also think we will start seeing these players flourish further when they have a more solid foundation behind them, and when we finally see investment in the area that has needed it the most for many years: Defence. The sooner I see the back of Lenglet, Dier and Perisic the happier I will be.
Oh, and the same goes for Sanchez, Tanganga and whoever else (besides Romero) we decide to play in our defence.
Amidst a gloomy few weeks at Tottenham, I do believe Skipp has provided a bright spark of hope.
Long may his development continue. And Gareth, get him in England squad.
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