Not only is Postecoglou an attacking manager by any standards, but when you put his football next to Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, it quite literally looks like a different sport, and has proved to be a breath of fresh air in N17.
No disrespect to Mourinho or Conte. Both are proven winners in their own right. But the style was never Tottenham, and they arguably never had the resources or players to give things a proper go in terms of trophies/a Premier League title charge.
Postecoglou, on the other hand, is the first manager since Pochettino who seems absolutely delighted to be at the club. You don’t get a sense of ‘I deserve this’ or ‘I am bigger than Spurs’. He gives off an aura of ‘I’ve worked hard and am so fortunate for this chance.’
And just like Pochettino, everything seems built for Ange to be in North London for a long time. Buying young players, developing a new transfer strategy, instilling a new brand of football. Could we see another Pochettino-esque five-year stint, or beyond? I hope so…
We saw a few nerves from Vicario on his debut, which was to be expected. The way Postecoglou wants him to play, while adapting to the lightning-quick Premier League, must be overwhelming as a keeper. But he came into his own against Man United.
If you watch his passing for 90 minutes, the first priority is always to find a ball into the feet of Romero or Van de Ven. And the only time he goes long really is to chip something into the unmarked feet of Son/Kulusevski or one of the full-backs if they are out wide.
There is a real emphasis on playing out from the back unless all avenues are impossible, while also being quick off your line to sweep away any danger over the top. This will 100% lead to some comical mistakes while the team adapts, but you can see a clear plan.
The full-backs are probably the biggest deviation from normality, with Udogie and Emerson/Porro tucking into midfield to create a four with Bissouma and Skipp/Sarr, thus allowing Maddison to either push on or roam completely free.
I’ve noticed that the LB and RB do not always necessarily go central together. For example, Emerson almost lived in the CM position against Brentford while Udogie stayed out wide a fair bit. But we saw both Udogie and Porro transition a lot against Man United.
The pattern seems to change depending on the opponent. For instance, Udogie can stay wide and play almost as a LWB at times to free up Son more central while the RB covers a central area. Or both full-backs can invert together to outnumber the opposition (like against Man U).
Inverted full-backs doesn’t necessarily mean they stay in deep-lying central positions though. We have already seen Udogie push very high up the pitch, Emerson score a goal, Porro smash the bar, and Davies force an OG. The difference is they tend to underlap rather than overlap.
In the space left out wide in the channels, we are seeing the likes of Son and Deki coming a lot shorter to pick up balls, then creating triangle/square passing formations to look for an attacking opportunity. This involves a lot of passing/control in tight areas.
For example, if Deki picks it up on the right side with his back to the opposition half, he instantly has a square formed with Romero, Sarr, and Maddison. A couple of quick one-touch passes and Deki with his back to the goal turns into Maddison driving into the opposition half.
I would say the one thing I want to see more from this is Sonny in central positions rather than with chalk on his boots out wide like a left-wing-back. We need to get him in shooting positions around the box to make the most of that trademark curled finish, in my opinion.
In the central pivot, Yves Bissouma has arguably been the most impressive player of the lot. He drops very deep to pick up the ball but looks after it so well. A drop of the shoulder, a shimmy, or a one-two with a wide player and suddenly he’s facing play and driving.
It’s early days to say it, but the style of his ball carrying, strength, and dribbling in tight areas is the closest thing I have seen to Mousa Dembele at Spurs. Keeping Bissouma fit seems key to the system, in the same way that Bentancur was last year to Conte’s system.
On Bissouma’s right, we have seen Skipp and Sarr. Both have lined up in central areas when Spurs don’t have the ball, but then drifted further and further wide right during attacks/pressing moves. This allows the centre-backs to push all the way up beyond the half-way line too.
Sarr, in particular, occupied that position really well. Pressing high right to turn over the ball over and over again, while also making late runs into the box, which led to a goal and another big chance against Man United. Skipp struggled a little more, but it’s early days.
On the left is a little different. It feels like once Spurs push up, the centre-backs step forward, and one of the full-backs inverts, James Maddison is essentially given a free role to roam around. He does most of his work from the left still, but will pop up all over the pitch.
That’s not to say he isn’t working hard, pressing, and defending for the team too, but I think it always makes sense to unshackle your chief creator at least a little to make them as unpredictable as possible, and to exploit pockets all around the final third.
I touched on Son and Deki before, but in terms of more attacking situations, we are seeing them stay wide a lot more often. Postecoglou seems to want them to make the pitch big and get to the byline more than Spurs have in recent years.
It’s hard to argue when this led to the opening goal, when Kulusevski beat his man outside and smashed the ball into the box for Sarr to turn home. He also had a whole lot of space to gallop into time and time again vs Man United, which Spurs exploited very well.
Again, I assume that as things develop, we will see Son tuck in a lot more when Kulusevski has the ball wide and vice versa. At times in the first half at the weekend, Richarlison was extremely isolated and ineffective, which wasn’t really his fault.
Postecoglou’s system is all about overwhelming in the final third, getting shots away, and outscoring the opposition while controlling the game. Tottenham are only going to get better at that, which includes the front three learning their roles and combining better.
It’s a strange but perhaps positive sign that none of Tottenham’s forwards have scored yet this season, but we have scored four times and earned four points. Once Son, Kulusevski and Richarlison start firing too, Spurs are going to be difficult to shut out.
Part of being a dangerous attacking outlet is about being unpredictable. If you have goals that can pop up from anywhere on the pitch from literally any player, it becomes a lot harder to stop. Even if we see the forwards score less, the team should score more in total.
Overall, there is only so much we can analyse about Ange-ball so far after just two games. But perhaps the most important takeaway is the basic eye test. It’s fun to watch, it’s exciting, it gets the atmosphere going, and Spurs fans are actually enjoying games again.
Isn’t that what it’s all about, after all? Play the Tottenham way and hopefully (HOPEFULLY) Postecoglou can build a machine that not only entertains, but competes for silverware too. It’s going to be a fun old journey either way. COYS!