He’s here and he’s perfect.
Ange Postecoglu’s appointment at Tottenham Hotspur was met with quite a bit of positivity from those who had been following his career, but surely even his biggest fans could not have imagined just how quickly he would transform the club.
Of course, it is still very early in the season, but Tottenham are currently in second place in the formative Premier League table behind European champions Manchester City.
It would still be quite unreasonable to expect them to stay there until the end of the season, but they certainly seem on course to exceed expectations.
Since we are just a few matches into the season, it is important not to read into statistics and data too much.
However, we should safely be able to say that early indications suggest Tottenham will be one of the most exciting teams in the league this season.
In their first few matches, they have shown themselves to be a side that likes to dominate possession and territory and scores plenty of goals but have not been the most solid at the back.
That should make them very entertaining for neutrals, while their fantastic playing style will not go unappreciated by their own fans either.
The standout facet of Tottenham under Ange Postecoglu has been their possession-play. Not only have they been transformed into a ball-dominant side after years under cautious managers such as Antonio Conte and José Mourinho, but they have also very swiftly adopted the Australian coach’s unique positional structure.
While many teams and coaches use a 2-3-2-3 in possession these days, no one uses double inverted full-backs quite like Postecoglu.
When building up, both of Tottenham’s full-backs are asked to come all the infield beside the holding midfielder (Yves Bissouma), so the two number eights (out of frame below) are freed up to push forward.
This shows up quite clearly in their passing network from the season, which also shows how well-connected their players have been to one another in this centrally compact structure.
It is also worth zooming in on some individuals who have shone within this system.
Arguably Tottenham’s best player of the season has been summer signing James Maddison. The ex-Leicester City midfielder has been given a pretty free advanced role towards the left side of the pitch, which he has fully utilised.
Besides helping his side progress the bell through his excellent forward carrying (and passing), Maddison’s creativity in the final third has caught the eye of many.
He has already registered a couple of assists in the league thanks to his dangerous passes from inside and around the box, both in open play and from set-pieces.
On the other side of midfield, Pape Matar Sarr has slotted into a box-to-box role where he provides support through all phases of play and also helps bring the team forward through his passing and carrying.
But the glue holding everything together has been Bissouma. The Malian international has been integral to Tottenham’s rest defence thanks to his ball-winning ability, which has led to him making close to 15 defensive actions per game in the league this season.
He has also been excellent on the ball – particularly through his forward carrying. He has completed more carries and covered more progressive distance through them than anyone else in the squad, while also topping the charts in terms of dribbles attempted and completed by some margin.
Afforded a respectable amount of freedom by the narrow full-backs, Bissouma has used his excellent close control to great effect to wriggle out of tight spaces and get Tottenham’s attacks going.
Tottenham’s midfield has been their most impressive department, but their attack could use some improvement even though they have scored the joint second-most goals in the league (11).
Up front, Richarlison has not been able to pose a great goal threat as a striker, while Heung-min Son seems a bit wasted and limited in the wide left role having attempted only ten shots.
Perhaps deploying the South Korean international in the centre would be a good solution to both issues. Early indications are pretty positive, as he scored a hat-trick against Burnley after starting as a striker.
If Tottenham can add a consistent goal threat at the sharp end of an already-set system in possession, they could well be one of the formidable attacking sides in England this term.
The major question mark for Tottenham in this system seems to be their defence. Their structure in possession is quite thin out wide, so they are susceptible to counter-attacks down the wings as Brentford demonstrated in their season-opener. That is something they may have to work on.
Their settled defending looks pretty good, as does their pressing in a 4-4-2 block. They have the second-best Build-up Disruption Percentage (BDP) figure in the league, although they are yet to face the toughest tests against sides such as Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion who are among the best at building out from the back.
Tottenham look well on course to exceed pre-season expectations.
Given that Postecoglu inherited a squad that did not look suited to his style of play, expectations had to be tempered and the possibility of missing out on European football for another year was being discussed.
However, the ex-Socceroos boss has not only transformed the team, but he has also transformed many players to get them accustomed to the style of play he wants.
A great example of that is left-back Destiny Udogie, who was signed under Conte as a very attacking wing-back yet failed to get a look in.
Postecoglu saw an inverted full-back in him, and the young Italian has been mightily impressive so far in what is a very unfamiliar role to him.
If Spurs can continue on this trajectory, European football should be on the cards again. It is a shame that they have been knocked out of the League Cup in the early stages, as that could have been a great avenue for a much-awaited piece of silverware.
However, that does offer them more time to focus on the league with a relatively thin squad while a good run in the FA Cup is still possible.
The most important thing for the fans is Tottenham are incredibly fun to watch. Even beyond the style of football he employs, Postecoglu has been a very well-liked person wherever he has gone.
London seems to be no exception, so Spurs fans should look forward to a positive and exciting season after enduring their fair share of suffering in recent campaigns.
Stats courtesy xvalue.ai, Vizz App and Opta via Fbref.
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