Tottenham Hotspur have endured a strange campaign so far in 2022/23, as, from the outside looking in, Antonio Conte’s side sitting third in the Premier League standings and qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League would appear to represent fantastic progress made by the north London outfit.
However, with Spurs making a habit of starting games in extremely slow fashion – having fallen 2-0 behind to AFC Bournemouth and 1-0 down to Olympique de Marseille in their last two fixtures, before staging second-half comebacks – as well as lacking a truly creative influence in the middle of the park, there are still question marks regarding the quality of the team.
And, while Tottenham’s sluggish starts are something that Conte will undoubtedly be looking to address in training at Hotspur Way, the 53-year-old Italian could well already possess a quick fix to his lack of midfield creativity – in the shape of 18-year-old academy starlet Alfie Devine.
After recovering from a hamstring injury towards the start of October, the playmaker has since been in a remarkable vein of form for Spurs’ youth sides, particularly in the UEFA Youth League.
Indeed, despite the eventual 3-2 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt U19s last month, Devine ran the show for Tottenham in the middle of the park, finishing the match with two goals to his name – with Alasdair Gold stating of the youngster’s first:
“Alfie Devine scores a superb goal. Lovely play from Spurs as they work the ball up the pitch and Jamie Donley plays it through perfectly to Devine, who rounds the keeper and strokes it home.”
The £1.1m-rated talent – who Spurs supporter Lee Barratt claimed is “such a baller” – also impressed in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Marseille’s U19s, hitting the back of the net with a “good finish with his right foot” – making him Spurs’ top goalscorer in the UEFA Youth League this season.
However, these returns in the final third are not out of the ordinary for the England U19s international, with Devine scoring a total of 18 goals and providing five assists over his 56 appearances for Tottenham’s various youth sides – averaging a direct goal contribution every 201 minutes of football played – as well as bagging one goal in one appearance for the Spurs first team.
As such, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg have both popped up with match-winning goals for Tottenham in their last two fixtures, should Conte wish to inject more long-term creativity into the heart of his side, the 53-year-old should unleash the 18-year-old Devine – as the “future looks bright” for the Lilywhites’ teenage sensation.