The 2015/2016 Premier League season has been intriguing. The simplistic style of Leicester City has come to the fore, almost inexplicably, at the expense of their faltering competitors. Whilst witnessing The Foxes rise to the summit of the league table has been difficult to believe, it would be naïve to say that the standard of teams this year has been exceptional.
Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United have all suffered from inconsistency and have failed to hit fluency in their play for any significant length of time, yet they sit third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Youth playing an ever more important role
An interesting feature of Manchester United’s season has been their reliance on players brought up from the club’s youth academy. Marcus Rashford has taken the headlines, and deservedly so, but the likes of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Tim Fosu-Mensah deserve mentions for the level-headed way in which they’ve adapted to Premier League football. Most recently Alex Iwobi has done this similarly for Arsenal, scoring two goals in his first two Premier League starts.
Mauricio Pochettino is famous for pioneering the use of youth academy products and this season it seems Josh Onomah is the next to try and break his way into his manager’s first team considerations at Tottenham Hotspur. Yet while the likes of Ryan Mason broke into the first team following only one first team appearance, and Harry Kane did so after a couple of months, Onomah has failed to.
Yet to earn full trust of Pochettino
This may be a reflection of his relative immaturity dissuading Pochettino from exposing the 18-year-old too early. However, more likely he has failed to establish himself as a result of a combination of the other options Pochettino has at his disposal in his attacking midfield position and his failure to impress when he has been given opportunities.
He has made only 19 appearances for Spurs but is yet to score or make a significant impact upon the games in which he’s featured. At this stage of his career, however, stats will not be his forefront concern. Instead it is confidence and experience that he and his manager are most likely seeking, and of recent Onomah has looked more comfortable.
Frustration for eager Spurs fans
For Spurs fans though, who have become so used to youngsters hitting the ground running, this is little consolation. Most frustrating was his and Tottenham’s humbling at the hands of Borussia Dortmund. In a game in which Tottenham were convincingly dominated, Onomah was powerless and seemed to barely feature. His attempts at pressing were futile and he was pressed so frenetically himself that he struggled to find any space in which to make a difference.
The potential is undeniable though. Very quick on the ball, Onomah possesses real talent when it comes to beating his man. Furthermore, his ability to press has clearly impressed Pochettino and hence one could say, superficially at least, he has enough dynamism to play in such a demanding system as the Argentine’s.
Plenty of scope for improvement
Furthermore, in this Tottenham squad the young English U19 international has an excellent set of players to learn from. His movement will develop with time playing with the likes of Erik Lamela or Son Heung-Min, his delivery and distribution will develop with time spent alongside Christian Eriksen and any time spent around Spurs’ talisman Harry Kane is sure to not only boost his skill level but also his hopes that he may eventually break into this Spurs team, as Kane eventually did so emphatically.
What is for sure is that Mauricio Pochettino is building a long term movement at Tottenham. He is not looking for players like Onomah to come in as a quick-fix, which may not be said for the likes of Louis van Gaal. Instead he is looking to develop players who are keen to learn so that they eventually embody the high energy aggressive pressing mantra which Pochettino bought into from his mentor Marcelo Bielsa.
Spurs’ development over two seasons of his management gives hope that this project, as Pochettino often describes it, is feasible and may make Tottenham into a serious contender in the long term. If he is to do this, it will be players like Onomah who carry the team with their experience of playing under the Argentine, and for this reason it is without doubt worth continuing to back Josh Onomah.