Tom Carroll is undoubtedly the most highly rated young prospect that the Academy has produced in recent years. It has been a long time since Tottenham were able to produce someone comparable to the quality of club legend Ledley King. Instead fans have been for years subjected to a long line of nearly men, ranging from Jamie O’Hara to John Bostock. But in Carroll do Spurs possess someone who could genuinely become a leading Premier League light in years to come?
At the age of 21 Carroll shows maturity beyond his age. Highly adept in his range of passing and vision, the Englishman is as close as Tottenham have come to finding a replacement to Luka Modric. Whilst the Croat hardly endeared himself to the Tottenham faithful, few would dispute the fact he is probably one of the best footballers to wear the famous lilywhite shirt in recent decades. If Carroll can come anywhere near to matching the abilities of Modric, he has the potential to be a Club Legend of the future.
Carroll graduated the Academy set-up in 2010, with the Watford born midfielder signing his first professional contract. He has since impressed at all levels of the club, with notable performances in the U-21 run to their League final as well as inspirational cameo appearances for the first team. Unlike many of the established deep lying Spurs midfielders, Carroll always seems to ensure that there is a degree of impetus to any passing move. Where others seem all to happy to play the easy pass square or even backwards, Carroll is impetuous to maintain a forward focus. His likeness to Luka Modric in this respect is uncanny, and he also has a decent pass completion rate to match his ambitious array of passes.
Andre Villas-Boas also seems to see potential in the young Englishman, rewarding him with his first team debut in late 2012. Carroll has sparkled in his energetic short spells, and his display in the North London derby showed he wasn’t afraid of the big stage. This has led many to call for the Englishman to finally get his break in the First Team set up, and I believe 2013/14 could be a big year for Carroll.
Many believe that the coming season will see Villas-Boas return to the 4-3-3 system which proved so fruitful during his time at Porto. This tactic centres around a dynamic midfield 3 with the onus on a freedom to roam. As one midfielder surges forward another covers back in a rotational fashion, making the tracking of runs increasingly difficult from an opposition standpoint. If Villas-Boas utilises this system it could provide a huge opportunity for Carroll with 3 rather than 2 midfield slots to be filled.
Whilst Spurs have a wide array of midfield options, Carroll is fortunate in the fact he alongside Huddlestone are the only real playmaking options for Spurs. In the long term Carroll’s midfield manoeuvrability puts him ahead of a somewhat immobile Huddlestone in Villas-Boas’ plans. Now it would be naïve of me to suggest a big break for Carroll would mean a starting berth week in week out for the Englishman. In fact I fully expect the midfield 3 to be Paulinho, Sandro and Dembele in the main. However, a scarcity of energetic playmaking options for Spurs could see Carroll fast tracked into a consistently used squad player. Considering he only made 14 first team appearances last year (mainly in cup football), a role on the bench consistently would represent a huge step up for the young starlet.
I expect cup football, whilst being taking seriously, to represent the opportunity for Spurs to rotate again next year. Carroll could now be entrusted with a central role in cup campaigns both domestically and on the continent, especially after impressing so readily in this respect last year. Unless Spurs can secure a top-level loan deal for the player, I cannot see a better way of helping aid this young mans development. Indeed premier league loan deals seem few and far between these days, and Spurs must ensure any loan deal would give him more opportunity than is currently offered at his parent club.
At 21 Spurs clearly will not see the best of Carroll for another 3 or 4 years at least. However, next season marks the start of a transition away from a Youth/Academy player and into a full first team squad member. As an overage player in U-21 football his options will start to become limited, and it is important he is able to substitute this with first team opportunity. I have faith that the England U-21 international will be afforded this by the club who have clearly seen so much potential in Carroll.
With such a focus on foreign imports in modern football, there is a continued yearning for a talent to be born out of the youth system. Tom Carroll represents a potential star of the future at Spurs to rival any. It is for this reason that next season represents so much opportunity for the young Englishman, who if nurtured properly could become a leading light for club and country.
Will 2013/14 be the season that Tom Carroll breaks through at Tottenham?