Tottenham are currently top of the table, being the only team to win their first three Premier League matches. It has been an excellent start for Nuno Espirito Santo after taking over in the summer. One surprise has been the promotion of Oliver Skipp to the first-team. The young midfielder had a good loan with Norwich City last season, but few expected him to be a starter for Spurs on his return. He has started the first three matches and he has impressed.
Nuno has opted for a 4-3-3 formation, which is a change from his tactical set-up at Wolves. Skipp has been the deep-lying midfielder, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Dele Alli asked to carry out box-to-box roles either side of him. The academy graduate is expected to provide a link between the defence and attack, meaning that he is key in transition.
That was evident against Watford, as he completed 68 passes. Only Hojbjerg completed more. Skipp isn’t expected to play defence splitting through balls, but he is very effective at making the simple pass to move his team up the pitch. This is why he is being trusted in one of the key roles under Nuno.
During the opening three matches, Skipp has played 14 progressive passes. This is more than any other player in the Tottenham squad. His ability to move the ball forward quickly and break lines makes him unique in Spurs’ squad. Tanguy Ndombele is another, but he is currently out of favour and unlikely to feature for the foreseeable future.
Although he is an effective progresser of the ball, it is important that Skipp is reliable in possession. If he is to play regularly at the base of Tottenham’s midfield, he needs to retain the ball well. During the first three matches, he has had a pass accuracy of 89.1%. Considering this included a match against Manchester City, this is impressive for an inexperienced top flight player.
It speaks to his character that he has managed to break straight into the first team under Nuno. Norwich fans will attest to his improvement during last season’s loan spell. He emerged as one of the best players during their promotion season and the Canaries were keen to bring him back. The midfielder just missed one match of the title winning campaign.
An average of 2.2 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game last season shows how he is aggressive in the middle of the pitch. Tottenham fans have witnessed this already. Skipp has won seven tackles and made four interceptions during the first three matches of the Premier League season. He has made 62 pressures so far this season. For Spurs, only Dele Alli (73) has made more. This is another reason why he has managed to win the favour of the new manager.
The early indications are that the midfield trio of Hojbjerg, Skipp and Alli are a nicely balanced combination. Hojbjerg is aggressive without the ball; Skipp is tidy in possession and Alli offers a goal threat.
Many would have expected Skipp to go out on loan again. Nuno has had other ideas and it could prove to be an excellent decision. If he manages to retain his place and continues his development, he could emerge as an important player for Tottenham for years to come.