Opinion: Dilan Markanday – His play style, his achievements, his future

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Dilan Markanday
Alex Pantling / Getty Images - Tottenham Hotspur via Getty Images - Paul Harding via Getty Images

“The dream is to play for Tottenham for the next 15 years,” Dilan Markanday recently told The Independent.

Spurs supporters will be hoping this premonition comes true if recent performances are anything to go by.

What a couple of months it has been the 20-year-old Spurs academy player. He has well and truly ensured coaches and fans alike are sitting up and taking notice.

Firstly, on the 21st of October, Markanday made his first-team Spurs debut, replacing Dane Scarlett in a 1-0 away defeat to Vitesse. Although the result was less than memorable for Spurs fans, no doubt the occasion will stay with the Barnet-born youngster forever.

Markanday’s debut was special for more than just individual pride. He became the first-ever player of British-Asian heritage to represent Tottenham Hotspur’s first team.

Further, he became only the fifth player of such heritage to play for a Premier League team, following in the footsteps of players such as Michael Chopra and Neil Taylor.

Speaking to The Independent regarding his historic achievement, Dilan said: “It is obviously great. I hope that lots of British Asians make that step, believe in themselves, back themselves and can come through and show what they can do.”

This feat exhibits a small victory for a community that is severely under-represented at elite football levels in England (Kick It Out).

When asked about his recent rise in the media, Dilan played down the hype. “I try not to let it affect my football, I try not to put pressure on myself to think I have to do it for other people” (The Independent)

Make no mistake though, Markanday’s selection was based purely on merit.

Having netted ten times in ten Premier League 2 games this season, he was recently awarded the October Player of the Month award for the division. This was his third nomination for the award, and on this occasion, there was only one winner.

The fine goal-scoring form of Spurs’ number 54 contributed heavily to his award. He has exhibited many examples of cool-headed finishing this season, guiding Spurs Under-23s to fifth place currently.

For example, he showed his maturity when completing a hat trick versus a Leeds United Under-23 side. Rounding the goalkeeper, he took his time and expertly picked his spot past a wall of recovering Leeds defenders.

However, Markanday has proven he has more strings to his bow.

Most notably, his dribbling and poise. Although no slouch, the Spurs youngster is not an Adama Traore or a Kylian Mbappe who look to knock a ball past a defender and use their searing pace.

He instead prefers to take players on more intricately, relying on balance and trickery to negotiate his way past defenders. In recent seasons, this skill has resulted in an ever-growing highlight reel.

His signature attacking sequence seems to be a jinking run from the wide-right touchline that navigates him into a central area for either a curling effort on goal or a pass to a better-placed teammate. A tribute to his idol Lionel Messi perhaps?

Similarly to Messi, Dilan is not the biggest in stature, standing at 5 foot 10 inches. But, he is strong for his size and his dogged ability to ride challenges and retain the ball whilst being hacked draws resemblance to that of the legendary Argentine.

Take a 2018 clash with Middlesbrough Under-18s. Markanday carried the ball 30+ yards from his own half, riding cynical challenges before playing an intelligent ball to teammate Rayan Clarke who emphatically finished.

The goal exhibited his toughness and clear presence of mind when on the pitch.

As well as his flair and creative ability in attacking areas, Dilan does his fair share of defensive dirty work. A high work rate and willingness to press the opposition are traits that will only help endear him to Antonio Conte as he attempts to become a regular fixture in the Spurs first team.

“Being around the first team has made me want it even more.” (The Independent).

Conte will also be impressed by the versatility the Spurs graduate has shown in recent seasons. Although he usually operates on the right-side of the attack, he can play anywhere across the front four and even in defence if called upon.

In the 2020/21 campaign, Markanday was deployed as a left-back due to injuries within the squad. He seamlessly adopted the role due to his energy and tackling ability.

Playing in multiple positions has no doubt helped develop Markanday’s footballing brain. He reads the game expertly and understands when to maintain his position to create space for others and when to demand the ball and dictate play first-hand.

He has also shown his ability to read the game, often being the first to pounce on loose balls or spillages by the opposition goalkeeper.

Although it’s an impressive month, the young man will be looking to press on and give Conte a selection headache in the coming months.

Speaking to the official Tottenham media team about his player of the month award, Dilan said: “I want to use it as added fuel and motivation to keep developing and working every day to improve.”

He continued: “I just need to keep going, keep improving and see what the future holds.”

With players such as Harry Winks, Harry Kane, and more recently Oliver Skipp, all nailing down first-team squad places in recent years, the pathway to the Premier League is open at N17.

All considered, Spurs fans have the right to be very excited about what this immense homegrown talent can offer in the seasons to come.

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