Harry Winks: Player Profile - Tottenham 2018/19
With the departure of stalwart Mousa Dembele, a long-term injury to Victor Wanyama and no new signings during the summer transfer window, Tottenham fans could’ve been forgiven for worrying over the future of their central midfield coming into 2018/19.
As it turns out though, those fears were all for nought. As per usual, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had an ace up his sleeve, and in this instance, that ace turned out to be Harry Winks. The 23-year-old England international might not be the flashiest midfielder in comparison to the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, but boy is he effective at what he does.
After flashes of brilliance in the past couple of seasons, 2018/19 has been the first that we’ve seen Winks really step up a level – and thus far he’s delivered the goods.
Player Profile (2018/19)
Name: Harry Winks
Appearances: 23 (Premier League), 11 (all other competitions)
Goals: 1 (Premier League), 0 (all other competitions)
Positions Played: Central midfielder
History at the club
A graduate of Tottenham’s academy, Harry Winks has been a fan of the Lilywhites since he was a child and joined the club at the age of 6 after being spotted at a training camp in St. Albans. It was in the 2013/14 season when fans first began to hear his name, though – he was named on the senior bench for the first time during a game against Liverpool in March 2014 at the age of 18.
2014/15 saw Mauricio Pochettino take over at the club, and he immediately stated that he was a believer in Winks’ ability, backing this up by handing him his debut in a Europa League game that season. But it was 2016/17 that really saw him break through into the first team – he made 21 Premier League appearances that season, largely as a substitute, and scored his first goal for the club in a 3-2 win over West Ham.
Winks’ profile then went through the roof in the early stages of 2017/18 – he received plaudits for his performance in a Champions League game with Real Madrid, in which he was pitted against the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos and held his own, and he was also called up to the England squad for the first time and performed excellently in a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.
Disaster then struck; Winks injured his ankle in a November game against Crystal Palace, and the injury kept him out for the remainder of the season, wrecking his World Cup hopes. 2018/19 has seen him return with a vengeance, though – he’s started 15 of Tottenham’s Premier League fixtures since coming back to action in August, and scored a memorable winner in January’s 2-1 win over Fulham.
Many websites would have Winks down as a defensive midfielder, but in reality, he’s so much more than that. His poor goalscoring record – just 2 goals in his Tottenham career – would obviously suggest that attacking isn’t really his forte, but nor is he a tough-tackling holding midfielder like his teammate Eric Dier.
Essentially, Winks plays the role of the team’s heartbeat – the man in the middle who receives the ball from his team’s defenders or fellow midfielders or steals it from the opposition, picks a short pass, and usually finds his target. Casual fans purely focused on goals and attacking moves might not even notice Winks on the pitch, but it’s hard to deny that he plays a vital role in the way Tottenham play the game.
Winks’ biggest asset is his passing skill and range, and his statistics clearly back this up. This season in Premier League action, for instance, Winks has averaged a total of 53.8 passes per game – the highest of any of Spurs’ midfielders – and his pass success rate comes in at 91.4%, the highest of any player in Pochettino’s squad.
It’s this passing ability that has seen Winks so heavily praised – largely because he’s somewhat of an anomaly in the English game, which has tended to produce hard-tackling holding midfielders or exciting goalscoring midfielders – or a mix of both in the form of someone like Steven Gerrard. Winks, on the other hand, more closely resembles someone like Xavi or Jorginho in his style.
Winks, therefore, has been used by Pochettino in his most natural role – as a central midfielder usually part of a trio. 2018/19 has usually seen him line up alongside Moussa Sissoko and Christian Eriksen, with Sissoko playing the destroyer, Eriksen the creator and Winks somewhere in between the two, always there to pick out a quick pass and turn play over in favour of his side.
Tottenham were always going to miss a midfielder as dynamic as Mousa Dembele when he left the club, but the development of Winks has softened the blow a lot. He’s not the flashiest player that Spurs can call upon – he’s almost a ‘grey man’ hidden amongst the heroics of Kane, Son and Alli – but his passing ability and accuracy means that Spurs rarely give the ball away in cheap circumstances.
His abilities make him a great asset for Spurs but right now the thing that’s turned him into one of Pochettino’s key men is his consistency – it’s rare that he has a bad game, and even during matches where he’s less noticeable he’s usually playing his part by finding a pass that can often lead to something bigger. He also doesn't seem to be overawed by big occasions - as we've seen in his tremendous Champions League performances.
He obviously needs to work on some areas of his game – most notably his goalscoring. After his headed winner against Fulham, Winks himself mentioned that Pochettino had been pushing for him to show more aggression when it came to looking for goals, so hopefully, he can continue to develop that. His tackling could also do with some work at times, but to be fair, 4 bookings in 23 Premier League games isn’t a bad record at all.
Overall if Winks can keep up his current form, it’s likely he’ll develop into the main man in Tottenham’s midfield – and perhaps in England’s, too.
Tottenham fans probably don’t need to worry about Winks abandoning them any time soon. As the chant about Harry Kane goes, he’s one of their own, and more to the point, he only signed a new deal at the club in May 2018, keeping him there until the summer of 2023.
Winks appears to be at Spurs for the long haul – unsurprising given he’s supported the club since he was a boy – but another new contract in the near future wouldn’t be a surprise at all, nor would a wage hike – right now he’s reportedly earning £49,000 per week, a figure that will surely increase as his role in Tottenham’s midfield grows.
In The Future
The likelihood is that for the foreseeable future at least, Winks will remain one of those players who is only truly appreciated by Tottenham – and maybe England – fans for what he does in the centre of midfield. Thankfully, Mauricio Pochettino clearly knows his worth and has a ton of faith in the youngster, meaning he should continue to get plenty of opportunities to star.
If Winks can continue to develop at his current rate – avoiding a reoccurrence of last season’s ankle injury and perhaps adding more goals to his repertoire – then there’s no reason why he can’t become ‘the perfect midfielder’, as Pochettino once described him back in 2017.Published 21 Feb 2019, 00:26 IST