The early stages of the Europa League are often seen by the bigger competing clubs as a chance to field inexperienced youngsters – and that isn't always a bad thing. FourFourTwo's James Maw uses the free-download Europa League Stats Zone app to assess three rookies who grabbed their first team chances with both hands...
Tom Carroll, Tottenham Hotspur vs Maribor
The 20-year-old may have only made his Premier League debut in Tottenham’s home defeat to Wigan Athletic on Saturday, but he already had reasonable European experience, having started five Europa League matches in the previous campaign.
However, his sixth continental outing, against the Slovenian champions, was perhaps the first in which he was surrounded by Spurs’ best attacking players, with Harry Redknapp having preferred to use the competition to give match time to fringe players and other youngsters. This afforded Carroll a better opportunity to display his passing and movement, and the youngster linked up well with both the wide men – Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale – and Jermain Defoe up front. No other player on the pitch completed as many passes as Carroll.
But what was particularly impressive was Carroll's range of passing. He completed a high number of tidy short passes right across the middle third of the pitch, while all of his eight long passes – many into space for Bale to run on to – were successful. His most telling contribution was a neat first-time ball to Jermain Defoe early in the second half, which enabled the England striker to put Spurs back into a 2-1 lead.
With Moussa Dembele and Sandro both currently struggling with injuries, Carroll may have a chance to strut his stuff in the first team again as soon as Sunday, when Spurs travel to Manchester City. That would represent a big step up for a player who has played so few senior matches, and would certainly require him to make a bigger defensive contribution, although his two successful tackles and two clearances on Thursday evening are not to be sniffed at.
Andre Wisdom, Anzhi Makhachkala vs Liverpool
Unlike Carroll, Wisdom has played semi-regular first-team football this season. The away match against big-spending Russians Anzhi was his ninth senior start of the season – and, incidentally, the first he has lost. Many of those previous outings have come as a right-back, but on Thursday evening Wisdom was deployed on the right of a trio of centre-backs – closer to what is generally considered his best position.
The 19-year-old was the third most prolific passer of the match, with many of his contibutions being neat passes out to the right flank. In fact, his only attempted long pass was one of just three he misplaced all game. Perhaps Brendan Rodgers is onto something with this short-passing lark...
The former Bradford trainee made two tackles and four clearances on what was generally an assured performance, despite the defeat. Yet that impressively calm distribution from the back will perhaps be what impresses Rodgers the most.
Sammy Ameobi, Club Brugge vs Newcastle United
When your older brother is a cult hero at your club, there's always likely to be pressure to make a relatively swift impact. Sammy Ameobi has largely been restricted to substitute appearances in a black and white shirt thus far, but he was given just his third competitive start in Thursday's match in Belgium.
Although he only found the target with one of his four shots at goal (two were blocked), the younger Ameobi worked tirelessly, providing support in wide areas and using his 6ft5in frame to help defend set-pieces. He also created Newcastle's first goal, slickly turning his marker before sliding a clever through-ball to his brother, who fired home.
The 20-year-old also attempted more take-ons are created more goalscoring chances for teammates than any other player on the pitch in a performance that won him the man of the match award with most media outlets. However his manager Alan Pardew hinted that the youngster was perhaps a tad over-ambitious with some of his play.
Speaking after the game, Pardew said: "He still needs to tighten up a little bit on the tactical and intelligence sides of the game. He takes people on where perhaps he should pass, but he will learn that."
Stats Zone is a free-download app from FourFourTwo and Opta, updated LIVE in-play. The Europa League Stats Zone is brought to you in association with Western Union's PASS scheme, which turns every completed Europa League pass into a day's education for young people around the world.
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