Despite Spurs not buying a single player over the summer, there’s a new midfielder at Spurs. Oliver Skipp, or “Skippy”, is a deep-lying playmaker who likes to sit between the midfield and defense. Skipp could best be described as Eric Dier and Harry Winks’ love child – at least in the way he plays, that is.
In this player analysis, we will touch up on what makes him special, and why you should be excited.
Confidence and composure
One thing that is required in modern day football is confidence & composure – and a lot of it, at that. Skipp’s ability to screen the pitch and think three steps ahead of the opposition makes him a super calm and collected player, showing maturity with his impressive decision making when under pressure.
After his first full start in the Premier League against Burnley, Spurs boss Pochettino said this:
“Fantastic, he played like a 30-year-old man. So relaxed, trying to play forward and give the team what the team needs, plenty of energy full energy I am so proud of him. He is only 18 years and I think it was fantastic.”
And with a 69% dribbles success ratio, its clear that he’s capable under pressure, he completes more dribbles per game than Harry Winks – albeit at a lower rate of success.
Here’s an example of his composure and dribbling. In the image above, Skipp dribbles the ball and beats a two-man press, simply by rolling the ball between the two players. This also shows excellent agility. Might I add, he performed this whilst drawing 1-1 vs Inter U19’s, with Spurs down to 10 men – the audacity!
“Now it is going to be easy because always debut you are nervous. I remember my first game and I said to him you look relaxed. When I was 17, going to play always nervous. That is the difference between a player going to be a top player and a normal player like me.” said Pochettino.
This confidence is very positive. With youngsters like Alli and Maddison both talented players, but it’s their confidence and composure that makes them the players they are. This composure allows players to make decisions faster, the key to the theory of “speed of play”, a topic often spoken of by top ex-pros and scouts.
Passing and vision
With 51 accurate passes per game and a completion rate of 81.85%, Skipp is a neat passer. It’s his desire to pass forward that impresses me, at 14.7 per game. This ability to transition your team is crucial to being a good deep-lying playmaker, a strain of player that England is so in need of.
This excellent sense for attacking allows Skipp to be a versatile player, with the ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker, or an advanced creative player. He is able to play with either foot, but his favoured foot is his right. This two-footedness allows him to be used on either side of a midfield duo or trio. It also allows him to play passes faster, more accurately and most importantly – pass to any side of the pitch under pressure.
The image above is Skipp’s passing map on his full debut vs Burnley. This passing map shows his desire to assist his team in transitioning the ball from defence to attack, due to the variety of areas of the pitch used. This is also impressive, as it shows Oliver Skipp’s ability to play as a left or right centre midfield. An impressive trait for such a young player.
A lot can be said about small and technical players not doing their defensive duties, but this cant be said about Oliver Skipp. With 8.9 recoveries in the oppositions half which is only just less than N’Golo Kante’s 10.4. Skipp has the defensive and tactical intelligence to lead the press – something so vital in the modern game, as you’d find it hard to find a team that doesn’t press.
Skipp also has an impressive defensive positioning for a player at the age of 18. His ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker, as well as a box-to-box player has really aided his positional play. Something any academy can be proud of.
The picture above is a great example of his defensive knowledge. Not only is his positioning great, but his ability to use his rather average frame against a much larger opponent. This defensive IQ really makes a good midfielder, a great midfielder. And once he beefs up a bit, he could be a real threat to Eric Dier or Victor Wanyama’s spot in the Spurs starting 11 in the near future.
How he can improve
At 5 foot 10, 70kg – he’s in a similar BMI range as Blaise Matuidi and Aguero, a very good size for a box-to-box player. However, if Skipp could improve his upper body strength, he would be an even greater player, similar to Eric Dier whose strength makes him a better player.
He could also improve his shooting capabilities. With only 0.24 touches in the box per game, Skipp is definitely a peripheral player in advanced attacking phases. However, he does have an impressive 0.74 shot assists per game at U19/U23 level (a stat categorized by goals scored after a keeper parries his initial shot towards another player to score) – something very impressive. However, this does show that his finishing isn’t great and that it’s something to be worked on in the near future.
In conclusion, it is safe to say Skipp is someone to keep an eye on. Whilst he may not be a flashy winger like Sancho or Reiss Nelson, he’s certainly unique in comparison to our current crop of England senior players. His ability to drop deep and link up play in a similar way that his Spurs teammate Harry Winks does, is rather rare in the England youth setups. With Dier out until at least January, as well as Dembele and Wanyama out, we could be seeing a lot more of “Skippy”.
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