Tottenham

Daniel Levy has given Ange Postecoglou something Mauricio Pochettino never had at Tottenham

James Maddison has a pivotal role to play for Tottenham under Ange Postecoglou as the club look to get back on track and challenge at the top once again

James Maddison and Ange Postecoglou before a Tottenham Hotspur match
James Maddison could flourish under the guidance of Ange Postecoglou

It’s fair to say that some Tottenham fans feared a repeat of the Jack Grealish transfer saga when it came to the club’s summer move for James Maddison. About to enter the final year of his Leicester City contract and destined to leave the King Power Stadium following their relegation from the Premier League, any low offer from Daniel Levy would have opened up the door for others to come in and potentially see Tottenham lose out on a priority target.

That was not the case, however, as Spurs saw their £40million offer accepted and the England international went on to pen a long-term deal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the process. Five years earlier, Spurs had their eye on another Championship ace but a deal for Grealish never came to fruition.

Viewed as a player that Mauricio Pochettino could take to the next level as he plotted Tottenham’s bright future, Grealish himself was certain that he would become a Tottenham player and a £25million transfer appeared to be set in stone. A move never materialised, though, and it proved to be a golden opportunity wasted for Levy and Spurs, especially with the attacker going on to new heights before joining Man City for an eye-watering £100m fee three years later.

While Pochettino and the club’s fans were left to rue Tottenham’s failure to sign Grealish, thankfully the same didn’t happen with Maddison five years on. The 26-year-old has made an immediate impression during his first month with the Lilywhites, including in Wednesday’s 5-1 pre-season win over Lion City Sailors in the final friendly of their Asia-Pacific pre-season tour.

Showing some good touches and glimpses of his quality against West Ham, this time he had a greater influence on proceedings and on another day would have found the net for the Lilywhites. Linking up well with Destiny Udogie to create an opening for Harry Kane inside the first few minutes of the contest, Maddison tested goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad with a curling effort from distance before whipping another couple of attempts wide of the post.

His best chance came minutes before the interval as his low shot in the area was saved by Rohaizad, with Kane then blazing over on the rebound. Also more than playing his part in a creative sense, most notably after almost finding Son Heung-min at the back post following a weaving run into the area, Maddison linked up well with Destiny Udogie and the South Korean to make Spurs such a dangerous threat down the left flank. The new partnership forming at Tottenham that can take Ange Postecoglou’s team to the next level

While Wednesday’s opponents need to be taken into consideration when it comes to analysing Tottenham’s performance, Maddison was a shining light and has demonstrated to Postecoglou just exactly what he can bring to Spurs over the coming years. He could indeed turn out to be the Grealish that Pochettino wanted but never quite got given everything that he offer Spurs in attack.

Speaking in the club’s pre-match press conference ahead of the cancelled Leicester City friendly, Postecoglou waxed lyrical about his new addition’s versatility and just how key he can be in terms of how he wants Tottenham to play.

“Yeah I think so. With the way I build the team like that, one of the attractions of him is that he can play in a number of different roles – not right-back – but a number of different roles in the way our midfield is set up I think we’ve got a number of our midfielders who can do that and that’s the way we want to set up,” explained the Australian. “I think he has all the attributes to play in that area of the park for us.”

On if Maddison is the kind of player he enjoys watching and how he wants the team to play, he added: “Yeah, I think I said when I signed him that if you can have a goal threat from other areas than the obvious ones which for most teams is your attacking players in the forward areas, he’s a midfielder who is a real attacking threat in terms of both goals and assists, with his passing and his movement.

“So from that perspective we want to be an attacking team and the more attacking threats we have the harder it is for the opposition to stop you. The reason we weren’t the only ones interested in him is because when you get players from midfield areas who can provide a goal threat I think they’re pretty valuable to your team.

“The other side that I’ve really been pleased with is that he works hard off the ball as well you know from a defensive sense. We know that we want to be a team that works hard on the ball and he’s been really good without it. He’s been working hard and you can see that’s a part of the game he’s also embraced.”

Needing a player who can both score and assist on a regular basis to ease the weight on Kane’s shoulders in the final third for quite some time, Maddison has all the attributes to help elevate Tottenham to a new level. Grealish more than proved his worth to Pep Guardiola and Man City last term with five goals and 11 assists as they went on to win the treble, and former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham believes Postecoglou can do a similar job with Maddison to the one Guardiola did with Grealish.

“I think Maddison is a great acquisition. I think Tottenham have needed that type of player playing in in that role – I don’t think they’ve had someone there that can open up defences like he can,” he explained.

“I’m very optimistic about Maddison. I don’t think he’s quite the finished article as yet, but hopefully Ange can work with him and improve him as a player in way that was similar to how Pep Guardiola transformed Jack Grealish last season. He took a good player and turned him into a fantastic one. I think that it’s great that he has chosen to join Tottenham. I’m certain he will be a big success at the club.”

Levy, Postecoglou and everyone associated with the club will be hoping that Maddison does indeed turn out to be a huge success during his time at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Playing a pivotal role in his five years at Leicester City, Maddison has a major part to play in Postecoglou’s Tottenham revolution as the club look to get back to the lofty heights they reached when they attempted to sign Grealish five years ago

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