Out-of-favour Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks has handed Nuno Santo a fresh selection headache ahead of this weekend’s return to Premier League action.
The north London outfit eased past Slovenian outfit NS Mura in the UEFA Europa Conference League on Thursday night, defeating them 5-1 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and the Englishman excelled upon his return to the side.
He was handed just his fourth start of the 2021/22 campaign on Thursday night and he clearly played with a point to prove.
The ten-time England international is neither an anchorman nor a playmaker, he’s the sort of no.8 who will sit in the hole and look to dictate play from the engine room. Former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino once described him as the “perfect” midfielder and compared him to Spain greats Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
But in recent times, his career in N17 has been called into question. The Times’ Gary Jacob suggested only last month that Winks’ career was at a crossroads and his performances had been ‘stale’.
Handed a rare appearance against Mura, Winks not only did his job to great effect, but he also displayed characteristics we’ve not seen in a very long time.
“[He] made Lo Celso’s goal with fine forward pass and had plenty of possession as Spurs tried to build attacks through the midfield, rather than bypassing it,” claimed the Evening Standard’s Dan Kilpatrick in his post-match ratings column, where he graded the Englishman a seven out of ten.
SofaScore rated him a little higher at 7.7, which was the fourth-best of the 16 Spurs players to feature on Thursday night.
Winks recorded the most touches (104) of anyone on the pitch in north London, meaning he was certainly a key cog in Nuno’s setup and a lot of their play ran through him.
As a result, he provided a whopping three key passes from his 92 successful distributions (96% accuracy rate). Of course, the opposition are no great shakes, but considering his career average is 0.5 per game, it’s a rather astonishing return.
He did his defensive duties, too, as he registered two tackles, one clearance and one interception, whilst he also won seven of his nine battles in the heart of midfield (77.7%), via SofaScore.
Spurs have suffered three straight heavy top-flight defeats and face Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon. One of the Portuguese’s biggest problems has been finding the right balance in midfield and now Winks’ surprisingly creative display poses a fresh and pretty big dilemma over team selection.
Does Nuno stick or twist with the Hotspur Way dud? Only time will tell, but what is certain is that the Englishman has thrown his name into the hat ahead of kick-off.