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Can Tottenham push for European places after impressive start?

Tottenham Hotspur’s fortunes took an exciting turn with the appointment of Ange Postecoglu as their manager. Can he lead them to Europe again?

Tottenham Hotspur’s fortunes took an exciting turn with the appointment of Ange Postecoglu as their manager. The Australian’s arrival was met with optimism, but few could have predicted just how quickly he would reshape the club’s identity and performances.

Delving into the details of Spurs’ transformation, from playing style to individual player contributions as well as defensive challenges, it becomes evident that Tottenham’s early-season performances are promising indicators of a team poised to exceed expectations and secure a European qualification spot.

A new dawn under Postecoglou

The mere mention of Postecoglu’s name brings to mind a distinct style of football – one characterized by high intensity, pressing, and an unwavering commitment to attacking play. It’s a stark contrast to the more cautious approaches employed by previous Tottenham managers like Antonio Conte and José Mourinho. From the moment he took charge, the 58-year-old wasted no time in instilling his football philosophy at the club.

Pre-season success 

While it’s essential to acknowledge that the current season is still in its early stages, Tottenham’s position in the Premier League table has caught the attention of fans and pundits alike. While it might be overly optimistic to expect them to maintain this momentum until the end of the season, it’s a clear sign that Postecoglu’s methods are already bearing fruit.

Playing style and identity

What makes Tottenham’s transformation under Postecoglu so intriguing is their playing style. The most striking change has been their approach to possession. They have evolved into a side that values ball retention and domination, a stark contrast to the pragmatic, counter-attacking football often associated with Mourinho and Conte.

One of the standout aspects of their playing style is the adoption of Postecoglu’s unique positional structure. In possession, they employ double-inverted full-backs, a tactic not commonly seen in modern football. This approach involves both full-backs moving infield, alongside the holding midfielder, creating a compact central structure.

Player performances

This tactical shift is vividly reflected in Tottenham’s passing network for the season. It highlights the close connections between players in this centrally compact structure, emphasizing their commitment to maintaining possession and controlling the game.

Within this system, individual players have shone brightly. James Maddison, the £40m summer signing from Leicester City, has thrived in a free advanced role on the left side of the pitch. His forward-carrying and creativity in the final third have resulted in four-goal contributions (2G+2A) in the league.

On the opposite side of midfield, Pape Matar Sarr has seamlessly settled into a box-to-box role. He contributes in all phases of play, aiding in both ball progression and ball recovery.

The lynchpin of Tottenham’s midfield has been Yves Bissouma. The Malian international excels in winning the ball, averaging close to 15 defensive actions per game in the league. His ball-winning ability is a crucial aspect of Tottenham’s ball retention and progression.

Bissouma’s impact extends beyond defense. His excellent close control enables him to navigate tight spaces effectively, initiating Tottenham’s attacks with forward carries. He leads the team in terms of carries, progressive distance covered, dribbles attempted, and completed. Bissouma’s versatility and quality on the ball have been instrumental in the team’s transformation.

Attacking options and areas of improvement

Tottenham’s midfield has undoubtedly been their most impressive department, but their attack has room for improvement. Despite scoring the second-most goals in the league (11 at the time of this analysis), there are areas of concern.

An early experiment, placing Heung-min Son in a central role, bore fruit when he scored a hat-trick against Burnley. This hints at a potential solution to Tottenham’s attacking conundrum amid Richarlison’s lack of goal threat.

The potential for a formidable attack

If Tottenham can find a consistent goal threat within their possession-oriented system, they have the potential to become one of England’s most formidable attacking sides. With a midfield that excels in creating opportunities and a versatile forward like Son, the pieces are in place for an exciting attacking display.

Defensive challenges

While their attacking prowess has been a highlight, Tottenham faces challenges in defense. Their structure in possession, particularly out wide, leaves them susceptible to counter-attacks, as demonstrated by Brentford in their season-opener. This defensive vulnerability is an area that Postecoglu and his coaching staff will need to address.

On the flip side, their settled defending and pressing in a 4-4-2 block have shown promise. They boast the second-best Build-up Disruption Percentage (BDP) figure in the league, showcasing their ability to disrupt opponents’ build-up play.

Exceeding expectations

The appointment of Postecoglu brought a sense of cautious optimism to Tottenham fans. Many wondered if he could adapt his footballing philosophy to a squad that didn’t seem initially suited to his style. However, the Australian’s impact has been profound and the demand for Tottenham tickets has gone through the roof in recent weeks with fans desperate to watch the team in action.

One player who epitomizes this transformation is Destiny Udogie. The 20-year-old has seamlessly transitioned into the role of an inverted full-back under Postecoglu. His adaptability and performance in this unfamiliar role underline the manager’s influence.

European aspirations

Tottenham’s early-season performances and tactical evolution suggest that they are on course to exceed pre-season expectations. Postecoglu’s ability to not only transform the team but also individual players to fit his style is a testament to his coaching prowess.

The most important aspect for the fans is that Spurs are incredibly entertaining to watch. Beyond their style of play, Postecoglu’s likable personality has resonated with the supporters.

However, defensive vulnerabilities exist, but their pressing and disruptive abilities showcase defensive strengths that can be further developed. If Postecoglu and his team continue to work on these aspects and the players adapt to his style, Tottenham could become a formidable force in English football once again.

In a league as demanding as the Premier League, it’s not enough to have a few standout performances. European qualification requires consistently picking up points, especially against tough opponents.

Having already showcased convincing displays against league giants, Manchester United, Spurs must prove their mettle against the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool who will pose a stern test for the North Londoners.

With a midfield that has been reshaped into a dynamic force, the potential for an improved attack, and room for growth in their defensive stability, Tottenham have the pieces in place for an upward trajectory.

European qualification would not only be a testament to Postecoglu’s impact but also a significant milestone in Tottenham’s journey back to the upper echelons of English and European football. Spurs fans have reason to be hopeful and excited about the season ahead, and if the momentum persists, European nights may return to the club sooner than anticipated.

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