Ange Postecoglou's Tottenham project is thrillingly ahead of schedule

So much for the adjustment period. So much for the difficult bit at the start of Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham tenure, where his players are supposed to struggle to execute his high-octane plan, and the faith of the fans is supposed to be tested, and the people who hired him begin to ponder whether they backed the wrong guy.

Tottenham - Figure 1
Photo The Sydney Morning Herald

Had you offered any Tottenham Hotspur fan 14 points from a possible 18 at this point of the season, six games in, they would have consumed your entire arm without a second thought.

And that’s without offering them all the intangibles that make what this team is doing right now feel all the more special: the spirit and togetherness of the squad, the eye-catching and effective style of the football, and their humble hero of a manager, who always seems to know exactly the right thing to say or do at all times to enrich the experience for everyone concerned.

After another week in which he had the British press purring with praise, Postecoglou’s first true test in the Premier League came on Sunday (Monday morning AEST) at the Emirates Stadium. His team passed with flying colours, but not with all three points – they had to settle with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal, their fiercest rivals.

They should be happy.

The result was fair, but it is the performance that will most please Postecoglou and further convince Spurs supporters that they are on the right track. Aside from the first 20 to 30 minutes, they were much more assured on the ball, generated the better chances, and played the better football.

Twice they fell behind. Both of Arsenal’s goals came directly from errors made by Tottenham defender Cristian Romero – an own goal in the 26th minute and then a handball, converted from the penalty spot by Bukayo Saka in the 54th minute.

Ange Postecoglou embraces Pape Matar Sarr after Spurs’ draw with Arsenal.Credit: Getty Images

But twice they came back, both times through captain Son Heung-min, both goals representative of this team’s new identity in different ways. The first came in the shadows of half-time, and only because James Maddison refused to let a promising attack die, creating space with a clever turn before bursting into the box along the byline and somehow spotting Son with a pass as Arsenal defenders closed in from three different directions. The finish was sublime.

The second goal was an “Angeball” hallmark. Postecoglou has always encouraged his teams to strike back as soon as possible after conceding goals, while the opponents are still mentally celebrating and thus vulnerable. Here, they did it after just 98 seconds. Arsenal had not yet settled back into the game after Saka’s spot kick and did not know what had hit them until it was too late. Jorginho was stripped of the ball by Maddison, he slid the ball to Son, and Son did the rest. Postecoglou walked away with a single fist pumping the air. His team had the better of the contest from that point onwards.

It took Postecoglou a full year to embed his ideas at Yokohama F. Marinos; to convince his players to trust in his methods, which can leave them exposed in possession, and believe in themselves and their ability on the ball in those moments.


At Celtic, it took a few months to get over that hump.

At Tottenham Hotspur, it has taken barely any time at all. It makes sense – in the Premier League, he is now working with the very highest quality of players in the world, who should need no coaxing to play in this particular way, and at age 58, he has had enough practice in renovating dysfunctional teams to have this process down to a fine art. But that doesn’t make what this trailblazing Aussie is doing any less astounding.

They are obviously not the finished product – not by a long way – but Spurs have the ominous look and feel of a team that knows it is only a matter of time until things click, and the goals start flowing properly. If you think the love for Postecoglou in the UK is already strong, just wait for that.

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