An invaluable learning curve – Spurs loanee Samuel Shashoua has played a massive part in Atlético Baleares’ fairytale season and in many ways he has been the beating heart of the team:
At just 19 year of age Samuel Shashoua made the courageous decision to delve into the unknown, in a foreign and unfamiliar country. The talented young Spurs player made the decision to join Spanish third tier side Atlético Baleares on a season long loan last August, at the time Spurs fans may have been a bit puzzled by this move however, almost nine months on, this loan has really proved to have been a coming of age for one of our most technically gifted young players. What Shashoua has achieved for the ‘ Balearicos ‘ so far this season has been nothing short of remarkable. No one could have predicted that Manix Mandiola’s side would be seven points clear of second place Hercules with only three league games remaining. And while this incredible achievement has been a great team effort, from the 28 of the 30 games that I have watched Samuel play this season, I truly think that the teenager has been the beating heart of this Atlético team. Directly involved in nine goals from 30 competitive games for the Mallorca based club (six goals and three assists), Samuel who has primarily operated out on the left flank in a 4-2-3-1 formation, has so often been the creative spark which Manix Mandiola’s side has so often been reliant on. After arriving on the island back in August to link up with Mandiola’s team, Samuel made an almost instant impact on the side. During his first four games Shashoua was an unknown quantity in a league which is used to teams playing like 2011/12 style Stoke City. Shashoua’s directness, mesmerising weaving forward runs and his strength on the ball stunned oppositions defences during those early games, and the new arrival caused no end of problems for them. Shashoua’s exciting style of play had the passionate Atlético fans up on their feet in awe every time Samuel was on the ball, and his impressive early start to life in the third tier of Spanish football resulted in Samuel being involved in four goals from his opening ten games. While his goal involvement statistics did dry up after that, this was down to the fact that teams were focusing on Shashoua down the left hand channel and putting more than one defender on him, so as to neutralise the threat in which he posed.
However, Samuel’s impact on the team certainly didn’t dry up and after adapting his game to deal with the physicality of the league and at times the brutality of it, Samuel continued to pull the strings from out on the left flank. Fiercely intelligent, agile, sharp but above all else determined. Determined to impact games, to create pockets of space for himself and to initiate chances for the likes of other attacking players such as Nuha Marong who he has a great on field relationship with, and Marcos De la Espada and Canario. Shashoua’s typically unselfish style of play may have gone under the radar at times but this is exactly the same player who I’ve watched carving open defences for both our under 18’s and 23’s in recent seasons. The young artist as I like to call him, has arguably been Atlético’s most influential player this season. With his darting forward runs, exceptional vision, deftly accurate passing and tireless defensive work making him an invaluable member of the ‘ Balearicos ‘ squad. Furthermore, Shashoua is very much a team player and some of his link up play with his teammates particularly with Gambia international Nuha who he combined with a lot during the early parts of the season has been sensational. This loan move has meant that Samuel as he is affectionately known by the Atlético faithful, has been playing against grown men on a weekly basis, and this is something which will massively aid his development as a footballer. I noticed from quite early on into Shashoua’s loan that he has bulked up considerably since last season and while he was always very strong on the ball, he has definitely become a lot more physical this season. However, Atlético’s second top scorer this season hasn’t had life easy despite how well he has settled down to life in sunny Mallorca. The Spanish Segunda Division B Group III is anything but a league where attractive football is played, something which will come as a surprise to the many of you who would envisage tiki-taka football being played by every single team in the league. The only time that I have seen such football played in this league has been whenever Samuel has come up against any of the B teams. Instead the league is very direct, it is physical perhaps not too different to its English equivalent.
At times during the current season Samuel has been literally kicked about the park. Kneed continually in the back as he attempts to get to the ball, and tripped and kicked on a weekly basis. Shashoua has had to learn to and adapt to the big cultural difference, and how football is played, because for somebody who has grown up in a category one academy side the style of football which is played and the quality of the training facilities is on a completely different par to a club like Atlético Baleares. However, as I have mentioned on numerous occasions in the past, Samuel’s style of play makes him very well suited to the Spanish game. Shashoua is as we all know a very technical player who understands the intricacies of the game. As a winger he is unpredictable and with his weaving forward runs, two footedness and ability to penetrate defences he is a very dangerous player who loves to try his luck on goal on the edge of the oppositions penalty area. However, he is also a very creative player whose vision, craft and guile has always resulted in him creating a lot of goalscoring chances for his teammates, and that has been no different this season. Without doubt Manix Mandiola’s sides most creative player, Samuel has created more chances than any other Atlético player this season and that comes as no surprise to me. Shashoua carries the ball really well out on the flanks and it is his unpredictably, flair and good reading of the game which allows him to work defenders so hard. He sees things that other players don’t see, and he does things with a ball which very few can do. On a number of occasions this season the 19 year old has embarked on some mesmeric forward runs, with excellent skill and balance enabling him to turn defenders inside out. His newfound strength has also made it even harder for players to dislodge him of the ball. So often the difference which Atlético have needed this season, like a player such as Marcus Edwards, Samuel can change a game in the blink of an eye. He only needs to receive the ball in space to create a chance or look to beat a couple of defenders before testing the goalkeeper with one his trademark curling efforts.
Samuel has singlehandedly won league games against the likes of Atlético Levante, Olot and Ejea. His sharp twists and turns, fancy skillset and all round intelligent play has been far too much for some of the experienced players in this league to deal with this season. The intensity and the aggression in which Samuel plays with for the full 90 minutes of a game is something which the players in this league aren’t used to. They aren’t used to seeing a teenager move around the pitch as well as Samuel does for the entirety of a match and they certainly aren’t used to a young player tracking back and defending as well as Samuel does. A real grafter, the West London born forward has always worked exceptionally hard on the pitch but this season in particular he has taken that to a whole different level. So often for Atlético I have seen Shashoua sprinting back 35-40 yards in order to help out his left back, or to make an interception or a challenge. Shashoua’s aggressive pressing has forced many errors out of defenders this season and it has in turn created openings for the Atlético front line. When I see Samuel pick the ball up in a crowded space and skilfully dance his way around four or five opposition players I am reminded of the great potential in which he has. Samuel has become quicker this season and his stamina has undoubtedly improved however, for all of his attributes which he has improved and for all he has achieved playing out on the left wing for Atlético Baleares there is one thing which is more important than all of those things put together, and that is playing competitive men’s football on a weekly basis. The power of a good loan is something which can never be sniffed at and it has often been a stepping stone into the first team of their parent club. Experiencing the pressure of lower league football in a foreign country along with the experienced professionals which you are coming up against is invaluable for a young players personal development. Shashoua has had to up his game since joining Atlético but he has also had to grow up both on and off the field. No longer used to the luxuries which come with training at Hotspur Way and the great accommodation which comes with it. Samuel has had to cook for himself on a daily basis out in Mallorca, he has also had to adapt to a totally different way of life. Although he already had a very good command of the Spanish language owing to his Spanish and Venezuelan heritage, before making the trip to Mallorca. Shashoua has had to pick up different dialects and new phrases so as to communicate effectively with his teammates out on the pitch.
A definite contender for Atlético’s player of the season Samuel Shashoua has defied expectations at the Balearic club this season. Working his magic at every opportunity, Shashoua has without waxing lyrical been the beating heart of this hugely overachieving team, who are within touching distance of being crowned champions of the the Spanish Segunda Division B Group III, and booking their place in a two legged play off match to try and secure promotion to the Spanish La Liga 2. The season still has at least five games remaining for Samuel who unlike last season has managed to stay injury free for much of this campaign. What happens if Atlético do win promotion to the La Liga 2, does Samuel stay on loan at Atlético for another season? Or does he return to his boyhood club and try and fight for a place in the first team squad. Whatever happens at the end of the season there will be no end to La Liga 2 clubs, EFL clubs and even La Liga clubs looking to get Samuel to join them on loan, and this is a testament to the fantastic season that the youngster is having in Spain. I have long hoped that Samuel will get another chance for Spurs at first team level. Over two years has past since the then 17 year old appeared on the bench for Mauricio Pochettino’s first team in a Premier League game against Leicester City. Now after a frustrating 2017/18 season Shashoua surely has to be back on the cusp of featuring for Pochettino’s side in the forthcoming pre-season with Spurs’ first team scheduled to play five pre-season friendlies this summer, Shashoua must have a big chance of making his debut for the Tottenham first team. The experience of playing in Spain has helped Samuel no ends and it will continue to do so over the coming months ahead. I personally think that he is ready to make that big step up to the Tottenham first team next season, at least in one of the five friendlies which are being played over the course of this summer. Both physically and mentally I believe that Shashoua is ready to play for Spurs’ first team and this excellent loan for Atlético Baleares just reaffirms my belief in him and the potential in which he has.
Shashoua is thoroughly enjoying his time in Mallorca and he is currently in good form having been directly involved in three goals from his last three games for the ‘ Balearicos ‘. Up next for Samuel and Atlético is an away game against Badalona on Sunday morning. Samuel ‘ Shashowa ‘ as he has been nicknamed in the local press on the island, has been a revelation for Manix Mandiola’s side this season impressing with his razor sharp movement, ability to dictate play and create chances from out on the left wing, and of course his outstanding dribbling ability. For such a cultured young player I really cannot wait for him to return to Spurs in the summer and really make a push for the first team, and hopefully force his way into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans. Technically he is the best player that i have ever seen play for Spurs at youth level, but most importantly of all he is a greats sportsman and a very polite young man. I would like to wish Samuel and Atlético all the very best of luck for their remaining games this season and I sincerely hope that they get promoted to the La Liga 2. Finally if you could all vote for Samuel in the link provided below for an end of season award, I am sure that he would greatly appreciate it.