Tottenham

Move over Lo Celso: Ange can find next “closest thing to Maddison” in teen Spurs star – opinion

The Lilywhites might discover a fresh playmaking star among the younger players.

Due to their impressive start to life under new manager Ange Postecoglou—the Greek-Aussie has yet to taste loss in his first six Premier League games in charge—Tottenham Hotspur remain firmly in the mix at the top of the table.

On Sunday, the former Celtic manager supervised a positive 2-2 draw away to fierce rivals Arsenal. Long-serving legend Heung-min Son’s typically ruthless brace delivered a well-earned point for the visitors at the Emirates.

Son has already scored five league goals this season, which is half of what he managed in all of last season, demonstrating that he has the talent and qualities to replace Harry Kane as Spurs’ new talisman going forward.

That isn’t to say that the north Londoners are just a one-man show, though, as summer acquisition James Maddison, a former Leicester City player who set up both of the South Korean sensation’s assists over the weekend, also helps to carry the offensive load in Kane’s absence.

With two goals and four assists already this season, the division’s Player of the Month for August has had an incredible start to life at N17 and may have been the “signing of the summer” according to TNT Sports analyst Joe Cole.

James Maddison’s game by numbers vs Arsenal
78 minutes played
43 touches
Two assists
Three key passes
7/12 ground duels won
Three fouls won
86% pass accuracy rate
7.7 match rating

Stats via Sofascore

The 26-year-old’s crucial contribution was somewhat marred by his late injury exit, leaving Postecoglou and the crowd to wait in suspense to learn if the playmaker would be able to play against Liverpool at home this weekend.

What is the latest on Maddison’s injury?

The England international reportedly plans to undergo scans to determine the extent of the damage after hurting his knee in the second half on Sunday. He was removed from the game against Mikel Arteta’s team in the closing moments along with Son.

The Coventry-born virtuoso was able to continue playing after that unpleasant-looking incident after receiving treatment, but it is yet unknown whether it is just a small problem or something that could keep him from performing for a while.

Football.london reports that the player himself reported feeling “positive” about his knee following the game and was observed moving properly after his post-match media responsibilities, raising expectations that he won’t need to spend much time in the hospital.

However, that brief worry about Maddison revealed a significant’short-term issue’ for Postecoglou regarding the lack of’squad depth’; there would appear to be a lack of options to replace the former Norwich City player if he were to be sidelined, whether it be now or at another time.

Who could replace James Maddison at Tottenham?

The only clear choice to replace Maddison is Giovani Lo Celso, despite the Argentine’s recent injury struggles. Others who could fill Maddison’s position include Yves Bissouma, Pape Matar Sarr, Oliver Skipp, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Given that the Argentine spent the last 18 months on loan at La Liga team Villarreal, there are likely to be questions about his ability to perform consistently in the Premier League even if he were eligible for selection.

The 27-year-old, who joined Spurs in 2019 after previous stops at Real Betis and Paris Saint-Germain, hasn’t exactly wowed everyone when he’s worn Lilywhite lately, scoring only eight goals and providing just six assists in 86 games across all competitions.

Lo Celso doesn’t seem to be the man who can provide great service to players like Son and Dejan Kulusevski, and Maddison has already nearly surpassed that total of assists from only seven games, so it may be necessary to search elsewhere for a solution.

Jamie Donley, a young sensation who is currently rising through the ranks of the academy, might have been that “creative force” that journalist Alasdair Gold spoke to. The 18-year-old is currently shining in the ranks.

How good is Jamie Donley?

After progressing through the age divisions at Hotspur Way and establishing himself as “a natural finisher,” journalist Josh Bunting described the Northern Irish-born England youth international as the “new Harry Kane.”

The youngster has thrived in a number ten berth recently, ensuring he could be the ideal Maddison backup when needed, despite having the goalscoring credentials to succeed the 30-year-old in the first-team ranks after scoring 26 goals in just 40 games at U18 level previously.

The Antrim native is a real master at establishing that creative link between midfield and attack, as demonstrated by the delightful assist he provided for Alfie Devine against Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Youth League last season. Bunting praised him as a “fantastic young talent” who is “comfortable driving with the ball.”

For the current season, the dynamic diamond has already made seven assists in just six games. He has 17 goals and assists to his name in just 31 games for the U21s.

Donley also had a standout performance in the most recent EFL Trophy victory over Colchester United, scoring twice and providing one assist in that 5-0 thrashing. This includes a record six assists in just five Premier League 2 outings.

The graceful left-footer put himself about defensively after winning 11 ground duels, including making seven tackles, and had a “outstanding” performance, as described by young coach Wayne Burnett.

Given that young Donley is clearly an all-arounder and has been dubbed by podcaster Chris Miller as the “closest thing to Maddison” in the Spurs ranks right now, it wouldn’t be shocking if he made his first-team debut soon.

The next move is to elevate one of the club’s budding academy prospects as the season goes, with Postecoglou already placing his trust in the young duo of Destiny Udogie and Sarr.

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