Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll: What Next for Tottenham's Young Midfielders?

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Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll: What Next for Tottenham's Young Midfielders?
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Nabil Bentaleb looks on during one of his best performances this season, the Europa League away game with Benfica.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielders Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll both enjoyed satisfying conclusions to their respective 2013-14 campaigns.

The latter was part of Queens Park Rangers' successful Premier League promotion push, culminating in a playoff final win over Derby County.

Meanwhile, Bentaleb has been selected as part of Algeria's World Cup squad.

Despite these year-ending highs, both are facing uncertain futures with Tottenham. Their shared fledgling status makes them susceptible to being cut as part of the club's regime change in a way established players might not fear.

Then again, Bentaleb and Carroll might find hope in the fact that the manager instigating this change is one who has previously worked with young players in the Premier League.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Will Spurs' youngsters benefit from working with new manager Mauricio Pochettino in the same way Southampton players such as Luke Shaw did?

At Southampton, Mauricio Pochettino could not afford not to trust in and develop the likes of Luke Shaw and Sam Gallagher. But even with more financial backing and a somewhat higher class of player available to him, the Argentinian might like what he finds in players such as Spurs' young midfield two.

Carroll's situation is the slightly more intriguing. He turned 22 last month and has been in and around the Tottenham first team for three seasons nowwith time spent on loan at Leyton Orient a year prior to that, too.

In Andre Villas-Boas' first season in charge, the midfielder impressed with assured, quietly influential displays in domestic and European competition.

However, the Portuguese still added to his midfield ranks throughout 2013, sending Carroll out on loan for more experience last August.

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Tom Carroll was sent out on loan by Andre Villas-Boas despite some impressive performances in 2012-13.

Subject to fate as football is, the departure of Villas-Boas led to a managerial change which could have benefited Carroll. Instead, it was Bentaleb whom Tim Sherwood looked to in shaping the Spurs' midfield more to his liking.

Still, Sherwood admitted he tried to bring Carroll back this past January, suggesting he would have been part of his plans if he had been kept on as manager.

"We miss someone who moves that ball and passes it between the lines very quickly, and he assists the assister," Sherwood told the Tottenham & Wood Green Journal's Ben Pearce in April, comparing Carroll to former Spur Luka Modric.

"I think Tom Carroll was that playerhe can do that, absolutely."

At QPR, Carroll appeared 26 times in all. An early injury problem and manager Harry Redknapp's tinkering with the team meant his contributions were intermittent.

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Carroll had an up-and-down season for QPR.

After the player's role in Rangers' 5-2 win over Nottingham Forest, Squawka's Pete Sharland wrote, "Carroll is a talented young player, one who could certainly feature for England in the future."

Other times, the small-in-stature midfielder's pass-and-move game did not fare as well in the hustle and bustle of the Championship.

Under Pochettino's guidance, Carroll could well perform the duty Sherwood envisioned.

Bar perhaps when Christian Eriksen and Lewis Holtby got involved further forward, Spurs' lack of imagination too often saw them walk straight into a wall of opposition players.

Carroll's instincts to get in space, provide an option for team-mates and move the ball on calmly would be useful no matter what formation the new boss opts for.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press/Associated Press
Bentaleb had one of his best games of the season in Spurs' 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Carroll is capable of looking after himself toohe demonstrated this with a gritty display in Spurs' Europa League loss away at Benfica in March last year. Pochettino noted that his ability to keep things ticking over for his team is key to Carroll's Tottenham hopes, though.

Speaking to the Fulham Chronicle's Paul Warburton this week, Carroll was taking a wait-and-see approach. "Everyone wants to play. I’ll be back at Spurs and hopefully I can do it there," he said. "If not, then we’ll see."

Three years his junior, it is not so imperative for Bentaleb to immediately figure in the Argentinian's plans. Experiencing the World Cup this summer will likely increase his desire to make it happen, though. The 19-year-old told Tottenham's official website:

At the beginning of the season I was not expecting to play at the World Cup, I was looking to be at home watching it!

I think it’s been a very good season for me. It’s my first season playing at the highest level and I think I did pretty well to get a chance to be in the World Cup. It’s going to be an amazing experience.

In Pearce's article, Sherwood described Bentaleb as a "different type of player" to Carroll. "I think he’s got a bit of everything, Nabil. I think he can get up and back, and he can also score," he said.

We did see shades of that in the Algerian's introductory first-team experiences. Getting forward well in January's home win over Crystal Palace, away at Benfica it was the defensive side of his game that shone.

Bentaleb was unfairly criticised by some Spurs supporters, aggrieved at him getting game time ahead of more experienced team-mates. Sherwood admitted to Pearce that it influenced his decision to take him out of the team for a while.

The latter was an understandable gripe, but the youngster getting blamed for taking his chance was unnecessary.

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The central midfielder is now ahead of schedule in his development. Considering he looked comfortable playing, if not yet fully ready for Premier League football last season, there is reason to believe he will only get better.

More well-rounded than Carroll, it could be Bentaleb who finds himself competing with Carroll for the role of youth-team product role.

The versatile Milos Veljkovic should not be discounted here either after his late-season cameos.

Pochettino could prove as much an admirer of Bentaleb as Sherwood was, in which case he may already be deemed the equal of players arguably more of his ilkthe likes of Mousa Dembele, Holtby, Paulinho and Sandro.

It is a big summer for every Tottenham player, but for those like Bentaleb and Carrollstill seeking to make their way as professionalsthere is an extra incentive to make the impression that may make their respective careers.

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