Tottenham should bank on Harry Winks next season

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 22: Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino gives instructions to Harry Winks
ORLANDO, FL - JULY 22: Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino gives instructions to Harry Winks /

Tottenham youngster Harry Winks stands poised to have what could amount to a breakthrough season, and club needs to lean into that assumption early.

It seemed like the smallest of things on Saturday, but Winks’ substitution in the 60th minute of Tottenham’s preseason friendly against Paris Saint German might be the most notable appearance on the night.

Not only did it serve as proof that Winks’ recovery from a season-ending ankle injury in early April is all but complete, but it also hinted that Mauricio Pochettino is ready to rely on the player again next season.

A bigger indication of Winks’ role in 2017/18 will come against Roma and Manchester City. Should he start either or both matches, that might be the clearest sign yet that Pochettino is prepared to widen the 21-year-old’s role.

Until Spurs take on Roma on Tuesday evening, we’ll just have to rely on hints and speculation. Perhaps the biggest clue as to Winks’ chances at an expanded role came on Monday, when the Evening Standard ran a piece on Mousa Dembélé’s continuing struggles with an injury to his left foot.

The Belgian claims to have only operated at 70% last season, and admits that he might never fully recover from an ailment that’s plagued him for some time now already.

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At 30-years-old, it’s hardly a surprise that Dembélé is beginning to break down. Winks served as his understudy for much of last season up until his own injury, and presumably was being groomed to ultimately take the role from Dembélé at some point in the future anyhow.

Some might still doubt that this is the year that transition from Dembélé to Winks will happen. However impressive Winks’ appearances for Spurs last season were, it still only represents a handful of matches played at the senior level. It’s unreasonable to assume that he could come in to seamlessly fill such a sizable void as the one due to be left in Dembélé’s absence. 

Still, Winks represents the only practical option at the club currently. Victor Wanyama could hypothetically play in that role, but Pochettino already relies on him in defensive midfield. Josh Onomah, too, could help cover for Dembélé if needed — though he has little to no experience at the senior level in Dembélé’s position.

So unless Spurs make a move for a central midfielder on the transfer market, it appears as if it’s Winks’ to lose. His style isn’t quite the same as Dembélé’s — it’s less reliant on moving possession forward via dribbling, for instance — but he is capable of both offense and defense from that part of the park. 

Next: Tottenham vs Roma match preview

What’s more, he hardly seemed daunted in the chances he was given last term. Such maturity and grace at his age doesn’t come cheap on the transfer market. Spurs shouldn’t forget that when considering their options next season.