Opinion: Why Conte should build his Tottenham team around Oliver Skipp

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Oliver Skipp
Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

21-year-old midfielder Oliver Skipp has been one of the breakout stars this year under both Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte.

The Tottenham academy graduate has only been improving since last season where he was a driving force in Norwich City’s promotion to the Premier League.

Following that impressive Championship season under German manager Daniel Farke, Skipp was then trusted with the role of being a second defensive midfielder under Nuno in a 4-2-3-1 formation, being one of the few players who shone and improved under the former Wolves manager’s reign.

The development of Skipp has skyrocketed however under Conte, once again alongside Hojbjerg, but this time in a 3-4-2-1 formation where Skipp has been driving the ball forward from deep, whilst also serving as a ball-winning midfielder.

Skipp’s recently-discovered ability to pick the ball up from deep in midfield and kickstart an attack is what makes him such a valuable asset in the squad, especially with Antonio Conte as the manager.

Skipp missed the start of Tottenham’s match against Liverpool, presumably due to COVID-19, but it would have been a game where Conte would have loved Skipp in the midfield as we looked to counter the Merseyside club with quick passing moves and through balls to any of Kane, Son or Dele Alli.

But why should Conte choose to build a team around a 21-year-old midfielder that has only recently broken through into the starting eleven?

Well, Skipp is a shining example of a hard-working player who has worked his way up through the Tottenham academy and is now shining in the senior team, the midfielder also has been at the club’s youth set up since 2013 and played for Tottenham’s: U18’s, U19’s, U23’s along with the academy team.

Players such as Dane Scarlett and Dilan Markanday should take inspiration from Skipp’s development and start to cause a flourishing cycle for talented players throughout the Spurs youth system.

Skipp’s slightly reserved, calm personality and character only increase the value of his talent. Unlike player’s such as Ravel Morrison or Dele Alli, Skipp doesn’t seem bothered about living the lavish footballer lifestyle.

The young midfielder is also slightly older than most ‘hot prospects’ or ‘young talents’. A possible cause for this may be that Skipp hasn’t had the easiest ride in football, experiencing what it’s like to try and break into a top side as he got glimmers of first-team football between 2018-2019.

However, through injuries and the changing of managers, he then struggled to claw his way back into the team and string together a run of regular football.

The making of Skipp has seemed to be his extremely successful loan spell with Norwich City, as he made 47 appearances in just one season for the Canaries.

He returned to Tottenham with experience and game time that rarely any 21-year-old Premier League midfielder would have. This experience is apparent to the managers who have entrusted him with a regular spot in their team, and the Tottenham fans who took a real shone to him.

Even his former Norwich teammate Grant Hanely expressed how he believes Skipp portrays ‘experience beyond his years’.

Skipp’s loan experiences and reserved personality make it likely that he will retain his focus and playing levels for years to come, following suit of current England captain and Tottenham colleague, Harry Kane.

Consequently, meaning if Conte does start to shape his Tottenham team around the Hertfordshire-born midfielder, then it’s likely the team won’t be forced into reshaping in the years to come due to a downturn in Skipp’s career.

The Tottenham Academy graduate shines in turnovers and progressive actions as shown by this graph here. It shows Skipp next to the likes of Rodri and Kovacic, winners of the Premier League and Champions League last season respectively, showing just how top class Skipp has been this season.

Tactically having Skipp present in most Tottenham starting eleven’s also makes sense, as Skipp has often been utilised in a 3-4-3 with Danish international, Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg, alongside him.

Conte has also developed his squad into playing in a 3-5-2 formation, a formation where Skipp has played in rarely but his qualities of disrupting play and driving the ball forward show that playing Skipp within this system wouldn’t cause a great deal of difficulty.

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