There is a sense of gloom around Tottenham after recent results in the Premier League but sometimes looking to the future can bring reason for optimism.
That Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is awaiting the return of 21-year-old Oliver Skipp with bated breath shows that sometimes the youngsters from within can prove to be important players for the present and future.
With Skipp in Spurs’ starting line-up for Premier League matches this season, the team have won 10 times, draw once and lost just three games. Without the England U21 international, they have won only once, drawn twice and lost five times.
Who could be next to follow the young Tottenhammidfielder into Conte’s thoughts as a potential first team squad member?
We’ve decided to pick out five players who could save the club and chairman Daniel Levy a lot of money if they can develop into stars and two players who have already been bought by the club but we reckon will rise in value in the year ahead.
Here are those seven players:
For most Spurs fans, the Senegalese midfielder is the summer signing they might just have forgotten about.
Just 18 when he was signed, such was Tottenham’s desire to beat others to his signature, Pape Matar Sarr was snapped up for around £14m from Metz and loaned straight back to them to continue his development for another season.
The teenager is rated as one of the brightest young prospects in the French league and has already played 41 Ligue 1 matches despite his tender years.
Now 19, Sarr has been getting plenty of his football education under his belt this season in a struggling Metz side.
He’s appeared in every game this campaign for them when he’s been available, starting all but six of their 19 Ligue 1 matches this term.
His versatility has seen him employed as a defensive midfielder, a box to box player, a left winger or as an central attacking midfielder across the season.
Sarr went off last month and enjoyed the international high of winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal.
He only played 12 minutes for his country in the tournament, in the semi-final win against Burkina Faso, but it will have been a huge educational benefit for him.
It is said that the teenager adapted quickly to life in France when he arrived in 2020 and if he can do that again in England when he arrives this summer after a season to prepare, Spurs will have a real talent on their hands.
It’s easy to forget that Dane Scarlett is still just 17-years-old and he is another who is having a real season of learning and development, mostly being done behind the scenes.
The striker arrived on the scene with a bang last season as a 16-year-old, Jose Mourinho calling him an “immense talent” and “a diamond, a kid with incredible potential”.
Tottenham’s inability to sign another senior striker has handed Scarlett some opportunities this season in the first team that, at his age, he probably would not have otherwise got.
He has got his first three starts for the club under his belt, appearing in five senior matches this term in all. He has also been named on the bench a further 16 times under Nuno Espirito Santo and then Antonio Conte.
That first senior goal is yet to arrive for the England U19 international, but the experience he will be getting as a 17-year-old, working alongside the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min and with one of the best coaches in the game in Conte will be invaluable for his future.
His promotion to become a full member of the first team has meant less game time with the U23s, but he has appeared in their last three games, grabbing an assist in the defeat to Crystal Palace last week. He also scored in the EFL Trophy against an experienced Oxford United side.
Spurs have high hopes for Scarlett and as long as he keeps working hard, particularly on his strength and hold-up play, he will start fulfilling that incredible potential.
One Tottenham striker who can hold the ball up and has gone under the radar since his arrival is Kion Etete.
The 20-year-old, who was signed from Notts County in 2019, has had a real breakthrough year in his professional career.
The 6ft 3ins forward was sent out on loan this season after becoming too good for the U18 and then U23 levels and his size and strength has helped him with the rigours of the Football League.
He spent the first half of the season at League Two side Northampton Town where he improved at a steady rate.
He netted four goals and two assists in his final nine games before a hamstring injury brought him back to Spurs for treatment and a decision was made that he already needed a higher level of football.
Tottenham used their recall clause and sent him out to League One outfit Cheltenham Town in January.
Etete has wasted no time in adapting to the next level up, with two assists in his first five games and rave reviews about his performances.
Town boss Michael Duff said on Saturday after another 90 minute shift from the young striker: “Kion has come in and he’s been excellent.”
Etete is not just a big lad up front either. Just watch some of the skills from his performances that have been shared on social media already by those around Cheltenham.
With his frame, strength and rapidly increasing development, Etete might just be one Conte takes a much closer look at in the summer before sending him straight back out on loan.
Although there’s no room for him in this list on this occasion, 20-year-old Troy Parrott’s development with plenty of game time at League One MK Dons is also being closely watched.
The oldest player on this list and a £25m summer signing to boot, but you can’t really have a list of the most talented young players on Tottenham’s books without including Bryan Gil.
When Spurs shipped the 21-year-old out to Valencia on loan after just six months, Conte somewhat used the Spaniard’s signing as an example to rebuke the club’s scouting decisions.
“You know that I like to tell the truth and for sure we’re talking about a really good player in Gil, because he has good quality and he understands football quickly,” he told football.london.
“In this moment, for sure this league is very tough. This league is different. If you compare this league with other leagues, you play another sport here.
“For this reason when you go to sign a new player, you have to consider many aspects. Not only one aspect, if he shoots well or makes an assist, you have to consider a lot of situations because this league is very difficult.
“You can be good with quality. You can be a creative player, but at the same time you have to be strong physically. You have to run a lot, to be resilient.”
It was probably harsh on Gil, who had been adapting to the English with some bright moments in his few showings in a Spurs shirt.
He is also one of the most talented young players in Spain, compared to a young Neymar last season during his breakthrough spell on loan from Sevilla at Eibar.
There has certainly been some head-scratching back in Spain at his sudden Spurs departure, particularly as he has dazzled immediately for Valencia in his early games.
The key for Gil will be to continue his development back home in the six months ahead and also work on strengthening his body during that time for the physical stresses of the Premier League.
He needs to convince Conte that he can handle it, because otherwise Spurs may end up losing a player who could become a real star in the game.
Like Scarlett, the club are being patient with Alfie Devine, with the ability to be even more so due to the current number of midfielders in the first team ranks.
Younger than even Scarlett at just 17 and a half, Devine’s season has been spent taking on the next level of academy football in the Premier League 2 with Wayne Burnett’s U23s and he’s taken to it like a duck to water.
When Devine became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer as a 16-year-old with his strike against Marine in the FA Cup last season, some might have expected him to be quickly pushed through the ranks.
However, having only arrived from Wigan in the summer of 2020, the attacking midfielder was unable to be named on the B list of young players for European competition and there were no free spots in the main list. That meant he could not get game time in the Europa League and Europa Conference League when other young players were.
He also suffered an injury which kept him out for about six weeks this season but around that has been showing his talent with the U23s.
Devine scored six goals and laid on two assists in the first eight Premier League 2 matches of the season and, as captain, scored in both FA Youth Cup ties against Ipswich and West Brom.
Since returning from injury, he has a goal and an assist from his last three Premier League 2 games.
With Dilan Markanday’s exit to Blackburn, Nile John and Jack Clarke’s loans to Charlton and Sunderland respectively, plus Harvey White becoming a regular first team squad member in the wake of so many midfield departures in January, Devine becomes the main creative midfielder in the development squad.
If he can continue to impress then it’s likely he will be involved in pre-season training and friendlies again with the first team in the summer and he will get his chance to catch the head coach’s eye.
A defender among a list of more attacking players, 19-year-old Maksim Paskotsi, who only joined Spurs from FC Flora in late 2020, has had his own year to remember.
As an 18-year-old last season he was handed his senior international debut with Estonia due to absences in the squad but has swiftly become a regular starter for his country.
At club level, Espirito Santo used the versatile centre-back, who can also play as a right-back, frequently throughout pre-season friendlies in the following summer.
Then the Portuguese handed him his senior debut in the final minutes of the Europa Conference League qualifier first leg at Pacos de Ferreira and he was on the bench for the return leg.
Conte has kept Paskotsi around the first team training squad regularly since his arrival and put him on his bench for the FA Cup third round tie against Morecambe and then the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea.
The Estonian’s first team involvement, sometimes travelling with the squad in case of injuries and absences, has impacted his Premier League 2 involvement.
A decision could be made this summer over whether to loan him out to get him the game time he requires for his development.
He scored five goals in 13 games for the U18s while still a schoolboy last season and this term he has run riot.
The teenager has seven goals and four assists from nine appearances in the U18 Premier League.
Donley has played for both Northern Ireland and England at international youth level and seems to have settled for the latter at the moment. He netted twice in three games for England U17s in their European Championship qualification matches.
The teenager is very much one to keep an eye on for the longer term future and the next step will be U23s football, particularly with a lack of natural strikers available to Wayne Burnett.