I’ve said it numerous times in the past, but the phrase still remains prominent – football fans love home grown players. Liverpool love Steven Gerrard, Chelsea love John Terry, Manchester United love Ryan Giggs and Tottenham Hotspur love Ledley King.
Well, now the latter have a new player of which they can swoon over – that of young midfielder Tom Carroll. The 20-year-old only made his Premier League debut during the 1-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic on Saturday as a second half substitute for Kyle Walker, but clearly did enough to warrant a starting spot in the Europa League win over Maribor on Thursday night.
With Andre Villas-Boas setting up in an accustomed 4-4-2 formation, the 20-year-old lined up alongside Tom Huddlestone in the middle of the park and was granted permission to break forward and support the attacking duo of Defoe and Adebayor.
It was a role that Carroll thrived in, his technical capabilities ensuring the Slovenian visitors were regularly pegged back in their own half. Pushing and probing in order to find the killer ball, it was no surprise to see the young midfielder find a teammate with 77 of his 87 attempted passes; a completion rate of 87%, impressive for a player who, according to Wikipedia, netted 56 goals in 28 games as an U-16 during the 2009/10 season.
On top of that, the Spurs man helped himself to an assist with a delicately weighted first time through ball to Jermain Defoe. It is an impressive rise for Carroll, who shot to prominence last season with a series of mature displays in the middle of the park during Harry Redknapp’s reign as manager.
The Veteran boss utilised the youngster predominantly in the cups, having made seven appearances in the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League. However, having exited in at the early stages of each competition, it was no surprise to see Carroll shipped out on loan for the remainder of the season, with Derby County happy to have him on their books.
12 Championship appearances and one goal later, and he’s back at White Hart Lane with a new head coach and a fresh system. There are those that are critical of Carroll, not as a result of his playing style, but rather his physicality, or lack thereof.
The 20-year-old isn’t the largest of midfielders in the game at present, leaving some to suggest that he isn’t ready for regular first-team football unless he bulks up, and quickly. Well, you know what I say to those doubters? Wake up and realise this isn’t the 1970’s anymore.
Midfielders don’t have to be the bustling brutes they were 40 years ago. The technical aspect of the game far outweighs that of the physical in modern football. You only have to look at the likes of United summer signing Shinji Kagawa, Chelsea trio Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata and one of Manchester City’s two resident Spaniards David Silva to know this isn’t the case.
Heck, remember Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger proclaimed former Spur Luka Modric was ‘too small’ to succeed in England upon his signing in 2008. Four impressive years later and the Croatian is turning out for Real Madrid.
The English game is beginning to phase out the physical aspects of the midfielder, to an extent, in order for the technical side of the game to blossom. With it, Carroll can certainly excel, especially under the stewardship of Villas-Boas.
Maribor may not have been the most testing of opponents for Tottenham, but it gave fans a real taster as to the potential capability of Carroll and with Sandro and Mousa Dembele potentially ruled out for the foreseeable future; the 20-year-old may well be handed the opportunity to impress again in upcoming encounters, especially with games now beginning to come thick and fast.