This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Oliver Skipp faces a difficult season.
The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has been gradually exposed to the first-team in recent months and has made a total of 12 appearances for the club.
Those outings include 75 minutes against Burnley in a 1-0 win in December and 71 minutes versus Leicester City in a 3-1 victory in February.
He played 13 minutes on the final day of the season, too, in the 2-2 draw with Everton that preceded the Champions League final, during which Skipp was an unused substitute.
An 18-year-old with an excellent range of passing, he is clearly rated by Mauricio Pochettino; he wouldn’t be anywhere near the first-team otherwise.
But his route to the starting XI has got all the harder this summer with the club-record signing of Tanguy Ndombele. The Frenchman joins the likes of Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko, Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen as being able to play in a midfield pivot.
What then, does Skipp bring that can see him stand out?
Per WhoScored, in his two starts and six substitute appearances in the top-flight – an admittedly small sample size – Skipp averaged 0.9 tackles per game, along with 0.1 interceptions, 0.5 fouls, 0.1 clearances and 0.8 blocks. This is not a defensive midfielder.
He did not score in the Premier League, nor did he provide an assist, while he averaged 0.3 shots per game, 0.1 key passes and 0.3 dribbles. This is not an attacking midfielder.
Skipp also averaged a pass completion rate of 83.9% from an average of 17.9 passes. This is not a midfield metronome.
It becomes difficult, when one looks at the numbers, to ascertain exactly what it is that Skipp does well.
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To watch him is to see a midfielder who is all hustle and bustle, a player who will get in the opposition’s face and chase the ball, though the stats show that he rarely wins it back and if he does, he doesn’t always use it effectively.
Of course, Skipp is 18 and exposure to the first-team and minutes alongside the likes of Ndombele, Sissoko and Alli will surely only improve him.
But his task has got all the tougher with Spurs’ summer activity.
It is difficult to see him getting many more minutes next season. Perhaps the best he can hope for is a kind FA Cup third round draw that pairs Spurs with a lower-league minnow.