22 | Midfielder | Tottenham Hotspur | England
Tottenham’s homegrown Luka Modric replacement is taking his time to live up to expectations, but that isn’t his fault. Injury problems have heavily restricted the 22-year-old’s development under Mauricio Pochettino but there are signs that he is beginning to make some kind of progress.
In a midfield full of unwavering talent, Winks always looks at home in a Spurs shirt. Dropping deep to receive the ball or pushing forward to create attacks, there’s an intelligence in his game that certainly reminds us of Modric. If those comparisons aren’t enough to convince you of his talent, though, then it’s worth pointing out that Pochettino’s nickname for winks is his ‘Little Iniesta.’ High praise indeed.
Some feel the midfielder’s small stature works against him, but didn’t they say that about a certain Croatian many years ago? What Winks lacks in size is made up by outstanding passing ability and that undoubtedly works in his favour in a Pochettino side that prefers to dictate the play from midfield and keep possession.
2018 has been…
…frustrating at first but successful by the end. Winks’ potential is unquestionable but a recurring ankle injury put paid to what initially looked like a true breakthrough year for the youngster.
Talk of a World Cup with England at the beginning of the year ultimately turned to heartbreak as the Spurs man ended up going under the knife in May in an attempt to end his ankle problems once and for all. At the moment it looks like it may have worked, with the midfielder featuring heavily for Pochettino’s side in the latter stages of 2018.
Tottenham’s trust in Winks despite his previous injury issues tells you all you need to know about how far he can go - not long after his ankle operation Spurs gave him a fresh five-year contract. That’s the kind of faith any young player needs from a club when things aren’t quite going their way.
The 18/19 season has started well for the youngster. His ankle injury did keep him out of Spurs’ opener at Newcastle but he’s featured in all but one Premier League game since, completing the full 90 minutes three times in the league and a further two times in the EFL Cup and Champions League respectively.
If you add to that his outstanding performance for Gareth Southgate’s England in their epic 3-2 victory over Spain in Seville, in which The Telegraph’s Jason Burt described Winks’ performance as ‘sharp, self-assured and aggressive’, it’s pleasing to see Winks beginning to really put his ability and potential to good effect.
Given Tottenham’s riches in midfield, Winks may have to wait a little longer before he can be considered a regular starter but there are big opportunities on the horizon.
Victor Wanyama is suffering with injury problems of his own and Moussa Dembele is expected to leave Tottenham in the summer, perhaps even in January. Without those two around, Winks only really has Eric Dier to compete with in his preferred midfield role, and there’s no doubting he adds a lot more to it than his compatriot does.
If he can avoid a repeat of his ankle injury then 2019 certainly looks like it could be the year we see Winks become not just an influential member of Pochettino’s starting XI at Tottenham but also yet another exciting cog in Gareth Southgate’s ever evolving England project.