Tottenham Hotspur: Envisioning a Spurs Starting XI to Include Tom Ince
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Two seasons in The Championship with Blackpool have seen Tom Ince's stock rise. The former Liverpool youth product chose first-team football at Bloomfield Road over a less-certain role at Anfield, and he has become one of English football's mostly highly touted young players.
Envisioning Ince at Tottenham does not take much doing. The attacking midfielder's abilities are a good fit for some of the North London club's current needs.
The 21-year-old's availability might not prove a simple matter, though. While the aforementioned Mirror story suggests the player would cost around £6.5 million, his father and Tangerines manager Paul Ince was talking a lot more in an interview with BBC Radio Lancashire (via BBC Sport) earlier in April.
"If you're talking £15m for (Wilfried) Zaha," said Paul, referring to the fee that Manchester United paid for the Crystal Palace youngster, "Thomas has got to be £25m. If you compare the two, Thomas should cost more."
Blackpool announced on their official website earlier in May that they had taken up their option on Ince's contract, which BBC Sport reported as being one year. It gives the Championship club some leeway for negotiation should they decide to sell.
Tottenham would have to consider how much money they are willing to spend on a player unproven in the top flight. Ince featured only once for Liverpool, and that was in the League Cup.
If a deal satisfactory to both parties could be struck, Ince's potential upside might be too tempting a proposition for the Premier League outfit to pass up.
Ince's eye for goal would certainly be welcomed by Andre Villas-Boas. Scoring even half of his 2012-13 tally of 18 goals would provide a greater source of goals from out wide—especially with Gareth Bale likely to feature centrally quite often again.
Assuming the Welshman stays at White Hart Lane, it is in compensating for his moving inside where Ince would likely fit into a Spurs starting lineup.
Predominantly left-footed, the England Under-21 international appears a natural alternative. Offering a similarly quick and skillful presence, Ince would understandably demand the attention of any opposition full-back.
More than a one-note player at Blackpool, Ince displayed the willingness to cut inside to create several (often taken) scoring opportunities. With Danny Rose or Benoit Assou-Ekotto supporting from left-back, Spurs would have a dangerous double-threat operating from that left flank.
Ince's versatility is such that he can offer a similar threat from right wing too. With either Aaron Lennon or Andros Townsend also in the team, Spurs would have the option of switching their wingers between sides as the game dictates—as they have often done with Bale and Lennon.
Such a situation would favor Ince's cutting inside and would give full-back Kyle Walker room to surge forward and maintain Spurs width.
Villas-Boas generally deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation last season, occasionally changing it up to a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3—depending on personnel available.
Whatever formation the Portuguese opts for heading into next season, it is likely to again feature plenty of pace on the flanks.
The idea of a three-man axis of Ince, Bale and Lennon supporting a lone striker could be viewed as Spurs having too much of the same in the side. However, all are good enough footballers that it would be worth trying at least.
Whoever the forward turns out to be (either an existing player or the new blood upfront that Spurs desperately need), they would benefit from Ince's ability to get forward quickly and his composure when there. His 14 assists this past season demonstrate that he knows how to involve teammates in the right positions.
It is a wait-and-see game of whether or not Ince will be on the move this summer. If Tottenham are a prospective buyer, they could do worse than taking a chance on Blackpool's young hotshot.
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