Ange Postecoglou’s official start date as Tottenham Hotspur’s new head coach is July 1, but a peek at his must-do list may persuade him to start planning sooner.
Spurs had a poor 2022-23 season, finishing ninth in the Premier League, losing out on European football for the first time since 2010 and extending their trophy drought to a 16th year.
Postecoglou has a successful track record. He won five of the six medals available to him in two seasons at Celtic, led Yokohama F Marinos to a J-League title in Japan, and led Australia’s men’s national team to their first Asian Cup victory in 2015
Nonetheless, the Spurs position offers a huge step up for the 57-year-old, especially considering the fan base’s mix of discontent and expectation. The club has struggled to deliver success on the pitch despite having one of the best stadium/training ground pairings in the world, but might Postecoglou reverse that?
ESPN examines the early issues that the new manager faces.
The future of Harry Kane
The first major issue of Postecoglou’s tenure may be the most serious. Spurs’ summer, next season, and beyond will be strongly influenced by Kane’s next move. The striker, 29, has one year left on his contract but has showed little appetite to negotiate a new one.Real Madrid and Manchester United are both interested in a transfer, but Tottenham has so far refused to accept any proposals.
So, supposing a reasonable proposal for Kane is made – and his transfer cost may be worth £100 million in the circumstances – there are two options: accept a bid and utilize the money to rebuild the squad, or guarantee Kane honours the final year of his current contract and ma
the opportunity of having one of the game’s finest forwards at your disposal for another year. There is always the possibility that an exceptional season for Spurs would convince Kane to sign a contract extension, but it comes with the risk of losing him for nothing in 2024.
Missing out on European football is a major financial blow to a club where the margins are closely managed; Spurs made a post-tax loss of £50.1m in the year to June 2022, and the club announced a capital increase of £150m last summer to back former boss Antonio Conte, a financial mechanism the club cannot realistically activate every season. There will obviously be a desire to support Postecoglou in the market but Spurs are not Manchester City or Newcastle United.
On the one hand, a rebuild would receive a major financial boost from Kane’s exit, but on the other, what would it say about the club’s future prospects that their star player has left? Both Real and United are yet to play their hand, so things could change. But for the time being, Kane has not pushed to leave and Spurs are playing down the prospect of letting him go. If this situation persists, Postecoglou has 12 months to convince Kane he can finally realise his trophy-winning aspirations at Tottenham.
Win over the fans
After delivering Celtic’s eighth domestic treble in their history with the 3-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Postecoglou spoke candidly about his journey in Scotland.
“Without beating about the bush, I was ‘a joke,'” he said. “A lot of people made fun of me. But the supporters, for their own reasons, put their collective arm around me and said: ‘No he’s one of ours.’ It was up to me to repay that faith.”
Postecoglou has enhanced his reputation during two years with Celtic, but there is once again a degree of scepticism over his appointment in certain quarters. #NotoAnge became a popular hashtag among sections of the Tottenham’s fan base as news spread of the imminent appointment and his lack of experience in Europe’s biggest leagues could quickly become an issue if he does not begin the season well.
He is also walking into a potentially toxic environment. Protests against chairman Daniel Levy and club owners ENIC became a regular occurrence at home games towards the end of last season, and a slow start would stir up that ill-feeling once more. Postecoglou is Levy’s 13th permanent manager in 22 years and those individuals are not immune from criticism aimed at the club’s hierarchy; when Nuno Espirito Santo took charge in June 2021, supporters were chanting “you don’t know what you’re doing” at him by the end of October.
The Kane decision will be a key factor in shaping perceptions. Keep him and it will be a vindication of Postecoglou’s appointment; let him leave with a progressive plan to replace him, and fans do not have to fear a post-Kane era. Anything in between will raise concerns Postecoglou is not the right man for the job.
“Ange brings a positive mentality and a fast, attacking style of play,” Levy said after Postecoglou’s appointment was confirmed. “He has a strong track record of developing players and an understanding of the importance of the link from the academy — everything that is important to our club.”
Both of those traits suffered under Conte. The Italian showed little interest in developing players, urging Spurs to sign those with more experience who were ready to perform at highest level.
And the football was largely terrible. At its best, Conte’s 3-4-3 system was an effective framework delivering stability, but the team increasingly looked stagnant in that shape. Too often, Tottenham were passive at the start of matches, falling behind before trying to rally. It was hardly in keeping with the club’s “To Dare Is To Do” motto, and so there are high hopes Postecoglou’s high-press, front-foot style is a better fit. He will have a full preseason to implement his philosophy but, as with any manager, he will want new signings to help with that progression.
Stamp his authority on signings
Spurs currently do not have a director of football. Levy has a wealth of experience in transfer negotiations, but the club are looking to replace Fabio Paratici, who resigned in April after losing his appeal against a 30-month FIFA ban from the game relating to alleged false accounting at his former club Juventus.
Many managers have struggled in the battle for influence over Tottenham’s transfer plans. Conte had high demands that Tottenham only partially agreed to, creating resentment on both sides that eventually led to his sacking in March.
Nowhere is this better exemplified than at wing-back. On the left, Spurs followed Conte’s advice and signed Ivan Perisic, a player in his early-30s with a wealth of experience but no transfer value. On the right, they acquired Djed Spence for £20m in the same window from Middlesbrough — a highly promising but rough-around-the-edges youngster. Unwilling to nurture a precocious talent, Conte quickly described Spence as a “club signing” and sent him off on loan to Rennes in January.
Spurs can’t afford any major disagreements in their approach to the market, and Postecoglou appears better suited to their tradition of signing younger players who need time to develop than Conte ever was.
It could be a busy summer. They will likely need a goalkeeper after Hugo Lloris publicly stated his intention to leave, while at least two defenders and a creative midfielder would be obvious upgrades. Several players — including Harry Winks, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso — will be made available.
Postecoglou hasn’t officially started yet but time is already of the essence.