Spurs midfielder Harry Winks could get his first Premier League start at Arsenal in the north London derby
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Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino says 20-year-old midfielder Harry Winks could get his first Premier League start in Sunday’s north London derby against Arsenal – two years after Ryan Mason made his top-flight debut in the same fixture.
While Pochettino reports Harry Kane has a “50-50” chance of being in the starting line-up against the Gunners, Spurs are missing the injured Erik Lamela and the suspended Moussa Sissoko for this weekend’s clash against the Gunners - and Mousa Dembele is also a doubt after twisting his ankle in the first half of Wednesday’s defeat to Bayer Leverkusen.
Pochettino is now lacking options in midfield, and his side have struggled for creativity recently, while they also lacked quality in their passing in midweek.
Winks could help to solve those issues and the young midfielder – who has just received his first England Under-21 call-up – came off the bench at Wembley on Wednesday, replacing Christian Eriksen, in a bid to improve Spurs’ control and possession.
He is now in contention to make his first Premier League start in the heat of battle against Arsenal. And, while it might seem a brave call to throw the youngster into that cauldron, there is a precedent - Pochettino also named academy graduate Mason in his starting line-up for a league game for the first time at the Emirates in September 2014.
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Asked by Ham&High Sport if Winks could start this weekend, Pochettino said: “Maybe, maybe yes. We need to assess Dembele first of all to decide but he (Winks) is doing very well, not only against Leverkusen but Liverpool in the cup and before.
“From the pre-season, you remember in Australia he played very well against Atletico Madrid and Juventus. In that moment he started to build his future and I started to see we can trust in him and this is very good news for us.
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“Maybe we repeat [what we did with Mason]. It’s one of the possibilities but I remember it was the same - with Mousa, before that game, he was also a doubt. I remember and I decided to play with Mason.”
Winks is a talented passer of the ball who likes to dictate the tempo in a deep-lying midfield role – and Pochettino has suggested that Spurs’ recent lack of creativity in the final third may be partly due to issues further back.
“[Now we] try to maybe change something and to find a better way to play now,” he said. “Yes, we have some problems to create chances or to be clinical in front of goal or to show more consistency.
“Maybe the problem is not in front. Maybe it’s because we are not building in a very good way from the back and the ball arrives in the last third in a different condition.
“It’s a very complex job for us to analyse why. But it’s true that we are finding the problem and now it’s more difficult to try to fix that.
“In my opinion there are many things that happen sometimes in football that are too difficult to explain. We were talking before about Dele Alli, who has maybe dropped a little bit and is not scoring in the same way that he did last season.
“Maybe in the last month he has been ill, he has had a cold and had problems. Maybe we have some injured players that we can’t rotate and maybe some players are tired. That happens sometimes in football. Mixed together, maybe we have dropped our performance.”
Tottenham will cross north London on Sunday targeting their first victory at the Emirates since 2010, when Harry Redknapp’s side triumphed 3-2.
In the longer-term, the Lilywhites are also aiming to finish above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years, having last achieved that feat in 1995, before Wenger took charge of the Gunners.
Spurs had a golden opportunity to end that hoodoo last term. They only needed one point from their final two games to secure second place ahead of their arch-rivals – but they lost at home against Southampton and then suffered a 5-1 defeat at Newcastle, who had already been relegated, on the final day and ended up third.
“I still feel bad about last season - it was so easy to be above Arsenal in that moment,” said Pochettino. “It’s true that we felt very disappointed after the Chelsea game (the 2-2 draw that ended Tottenham’s title bid), but with two games ahead and only one point [needed] to be above, that was very frustrating and disappointing.
“It was difficult to not think about that situation, but we have another opportunity now and we will see what happens.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs