Alex Pritchard’s mindset makes him an intriguing prospect

England v Portugal: U21 International Friendly

It feels as if Tottenham supporters have been waiting a long time for Alex Pritchard to become relevant at White Hart Lane.  A couple of years ago, the attacking-midfielder was the club’s great future hope, only for expectations around him to gradually simmer down.  That’s a common tale; players who burn brightly in academies or during lower-league loan-spells are always expected to continue their development at the same rate year-on-year but, as we all know, that’s rarely the case.

Pritchard is an interesting one. As someone who only recently starting watching him across entire games rather than in highlight packages, it’s hard for me to truly get a handle on what he is as a player - much of what follows, then, is little more than guesswork.

His basic package of skills is very impressive. His feet are quick and clean, he identifies attacking situations quite well, and he seems willing and able to take offensive risks on the pitch - and that last point is very important.  We often talk of mentality as being a decisive factor in goalkeeping or a key component of a forward’s form, but rarely is it depicted as an essential attribute in creative play.

That’s wrong.  A player like Pritchard - someone who combines traditional playmaking abilities with an instinct to be direct on the ball - is obviously reliant on attributes such as control, technique and vision, but to be an elite player in that position also requires a certain type of personality.

It’s a role with an unappreciated amount of responsibility. An attacking player not only has to possess the literal ability to be impactful, he also needs the emotional conviction to play a lower-percentage game.  The blanket term is confidence, but that can be diversified into all sorts of factors, including but not limited to having the willingness to shoulder creative burden at crucial moments and being able to maintain morale when passes or runs are unsuccessful.

The position really is more cerebral than it’s generally assumed to be, because talent is just one part of the requirement in that role.

Pritchard is a work in progress, clearly.  What he has achieved in the Football League or with England at various age groups provides only a vague indicator of what he might be capable of at Tottenham, but there are still positive signs.

At a higher level, maybe his footwork won’t look quite as impressive and maybe he’ll find defenders harder to beat, but the important detail - at this stage at least - is that he isn’t afraid of expressing himself. Several areas of his game clearly remain under-developed, but it’s pleasing to see how uninhibited he is on the ball and how eager he is to try things when he has the opportunity.

That sounds like faint praise, but there are so many young attacking players in this country who either allow their sense of expression to be smothered by a fear of losing the ball or, conversely, who are so eager to be noticed that they exist outside of their team’s structure.

Tentatively, Pritchard seems to fit nicely in the middle of that balance.

What happens next is a virtual lottery. He suffered a semi-serious ankle injury whilst at the U21 European Championship and will subsequently miss the first weeks of Tottenham’s pre-season.  That’s a problem, because the off-season is not only vital for fitness, but the warm-up games within it give younger players a rare opportunity to start alongside first-team regulars and to cast themselves as viable options for the coming season.  Ryan Mason benefited from that twelve months ago and, were it not for the ugly challenge he suffered against Sweden on Sunday, Pritchard would have been in a position to do the same this year.

Still, his healthy approach to the game makes him one-to-watch. What his abilities will translate to at the top-level is really anyone’s guess, but that special ingredient - his lack of fear - makes him intriguing.

Hopefully the injury heals before time and he gets at least some semblance of a pre-season.

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3 Comments on "Alex Pritchard’s mindset makes him an intriguing prospect"

  1. The key to Pritchard is balast. Enough of it to compensate for his size. If and when he upgrades his lower-body strength he can be anything he wants, Right now he’s like a smaller version of Erik Lamela, neither of them can remain upright in a stiff breeze

  2. Reportedly his injury rules him out for several weeks, which suggests he’ll be in footballing action for Spurs sooner rather than later. He was entitled to a proper rest from action anyway because of the season he’s had, international involvement and the need to get off the football-treadmill. Mason and Kane, likewise. It’s not as if the club is short of players, and when these three are ready, along with Carroll and the new arrivals, Spurs should be taking shape for the season ahead.

  3. Nice article. But Pochetino has already said he and Tom Carrol will be in the Tottenham squad next season. It’s up to them to make their chances count. They have around 8/10 games before January where they should probably start and play a full game. If they can’t impress I fear another loan maybe on the cards. They are both exceptionally talented, but they can either fall out of favour (like Townsend) or work hard and force their way in to the premier league starting team (like Kane and Mason)

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