Fewer fireworks but more steadiness from Spurs loanee Skipp
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ollie Skipp has acquired a key characteristic required to become a regular member of Norwich City's first-team squad - Daniel Farke's trust.
The 20-year-old is being exposed to his first real run in senior football and is rising to the rigours of Championship football like a player 100 games his senior. Against Blackburn Rovers, there was less individual quality and more of a reliance on him contributing to the Canaries' wider defensive structure.
But selflessness comes easy to the Spurs loanee.
In his opening game against Huddersfield, his debut came against a backdrop of praise from Jose Mourinho and excitement from the Tottenham faithful. Skipp displayed elements of his quality, but his positioning was something pinpointed by Farke as something that needed to improve.
He returned to the pitches at Colney with desire and determination to prove his worth. For a young man exposed to world-class facilities, there has been no ego about the way he has handled himself in Norfolk to date.
Underpinning his loan spell has been his willingness to work. As a young player attempting to impose himself on a first-team group for the first time, that has been what has impressed those behind the scenes at the club.
At Ewood Park on Saturday, he reaffirmed why he has gained the trust of the Canaries head coach. In a game of high quality, Skipp displayed once more his quality in key pressure games of Championship football.
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This was a slightly different situation for Skipp given he was deployed in a different role. Alongside City stalwart Alex Tettey, different questions are asked of the Spurs loanee on the pitch.
Skipp was tasked with being more progressive and adventurous. He has the energy to burst through the lines and support the offensive phases of play - that was the case as he embarked on a lung-busting run after Emi Buendia stole possession in the first half.
In defensive stages, his positioning is much improved. Along with Tettey, he protected City's central area with effectiveness against an energetic midfield. One aspect was their ability to protect space preventing the ball finding the prolific Adam Armstrong in dangerous positions outside the box.
He has managed to add elements to his game. Technically, he does use the ball efficiently and is progressive from deeper positions. Rarely is there a defence-splitting pass or a moment that unlocks defences, but he is intelligent with the ball and enables City's possession-based style.
It was his pass to Josh Martin that began the move of City's second goal. He seized upon the loose ball before finding the teenager in space who in turn teed up Buendia's shot that Pukki deflected in.
Beyond that, there was a disallowed goal in the second half where he had ventured into an offside position before converting Mario Vrancic's pass into the net.
This was a display that epitomises why he is blossoming in his spell with the Canaries, there is a dependability about him, something that is very hard to command as a young footballer. Skipp has proved City can rely on him in midfield.
He has stamped his authority on this City side and has become the lynchpin within the midfield. There's no doubt that he looks more comfortable operating as a screener rather than a ball-player, but he has the quality to adapt to the demands asked of him.
In Farke's philosophy, trust is paramount. Skipp has it from his colleagues and his boss in equal measure. There is a class to his play that suggests bigger things are on the horizon for the Spurs loanee.
Mourinho dubbed him as a future Spurs captain, it is easy to witness why his admirers extend deep within his parent club.
The intangible elements are there also, at Ewood Park, he was offering advice to Martin and demanding the ball from players that could be perceived as more experienced. Every week he offers City a steady security in midfield and that is needed in a season where the physical demands are so high.
Already, the conversation amongst supporters has shifted to the future and whether they can retain his services. Spurs will see him as a natural heir to their midfield positions, especially given the way Mourinho wants his side to play the game.
City can stake their claim as the perfect destination for his development with promotion to the Premier League, knowing that would offer a new challenge at a higher level for a player who looks destined for better things.
For now, Skipp must focus on the task at hand. For such a selfless player, the ambitions of the club will always outweigh his own. He just needs to keep improving.
VERDICT: Not as standout as other performances, but just as important to the Canaries defensive structure as ever. Undoubtedly more effective in a shielding role, but continues his improvement in City's midfield engine-room.