Part of the mission of former Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas was to identify the top young talent in the Spurs system and to blend them into the side. Villas-Boas did well in identifying Tom Carroll, a young midfielder with a great passing range, Andros Townsend, who was handed a full England debut last fall, and Danny Rose, a left-back who had all but been forgotten by Harry Redknapp, are two more examples. But one player he seems to have ignored was the 19 year-old midfielder Nabil Bentaleb.
The French-born youngster played a key role in Tottenham’s victory at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day, showing a keen tactical sense after being subbed on for Etienne Capoue and helping a stretched Tottenham side see out a famous victory. He got his first senior team start in the FA Cup Third Round against Arsenal but like most of the Spurs side that day, he was ragged at the Emirates.
Saturday, Bentaleb played a key role in providing a shield for the back four and linking the midfield together in Tottenham’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace. His technical ability, quick reading of the game and impressive physicality has all been on display in recent matches for Tottenham.
Bentaleb in the future could make a particularly good combination with Carroll, a midfielder who has been compared to Leon Britton for his ability to hold the ball, pass it accurately and quickly, and keep passing the ball in triangles. Carroll, who has played regularly on loan for QPR, has seen less time the past few weeks since Harry Redknapp brought Yossi Benayoun to the club on a free transfer, and since then it has become apparent Spurs may recall the midfielder.
Milos Veljkovic is another youth player Sherwood is reported to like and he has already appeared on the bench for the first team a few times since the management change. Veljkovic is also a holding midfielder, but like Capoue who was bought from Toulouse, he can also play on the back line.
Tottenham’s decision to sell Stephen Caulker to Cardiff in the summer transfer window has left options limited at centre back, meaning Veljkovic may get a shot there before the midfield if the current injury troubles for Tottenham continue.
The decision to appoint Sherwood was controversial but if he continues the bloodletting and integration of youth while maintaining a top four challenge, he will more than have earned his job.