Five Things We Learnt From Ange Postecoglou’s First Tottenham Hotspur Game

"Results always matter, mate."

Five Things We Learnt From Ange Postecoglou’s First Tottenham Hotspur Game

Image: Getty

Last night under the lights in Perth, Tottenham Hotspur fans were treated to the first full 90 minutes of the new direction under Ange Postecoglou. It was electric, decisive and exciting, creating chance after chance from innumerable positions around the pitch as the players bedded into the new football system.

Ultimately this was just a friendly and a first look at the new Tottenham that Postecoglou and his staff are striving to build. But with plenty of talking points from Spurs’ opening fixture of this preseason tour, here are five things we learnt in Australia.

Tottenham desperately need defensive reinforcements

Three shots, two goals for West Ham in the first half, with Vicario only able to make his first – albeit impressive – save in the 46th minute of the first half. Venom by name, Venom by nature. Of course, this is the first time that this back four are playing together so we shouldn’t be ringing the alarm bells after conceding two set-piece goals, but it’s evident that Tottenham need to bring in another elite centreback to pair with Christian Romero.

Whilst the Tottenham romantic in me loves the idea of a Pedro Porro/Sergio Reguillon fullback pairing, reminiscent of the days when Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were bombing up and down the wing for fun, too many times in the first half against West Ham, the fullbacks were ineffective. Reguillon was found out down that left side by Jarrod Bowen, full of confidence, running at will at the Spaniard on his first match since returning on loan.

Destiny Udogie came on and showed just what Spurs have been in the fullback position. Driving into space and attempting quick one-twos with the forward players, Udogie even turned up with a goal when the team needed it most. Still only 20 years old, the young Italian looked mature beyond his years and spoke with authority giving his thoughts on his first 45 in Tottenham colours, “We played our football, the fans enjoyed it, we start from here. I hope that my goal is just the first of many to come.”

This midfield trio can play

Yves Bissouma has dominated the discussions since the first team returned to training this week; the Mali international had a mixed debut season since joining from Brighton last summer with injuries hampering his progress under the previous manager. After a first-half performance under Postecoglou, Bissouma’s defining attributes came to the fore: He’s quick, strong and assertive in the middle of the park, his ball control is, at times, breathtaking, and his short passing game shows just why Tottenham pulled off a major coup in signing him.

Bissouma was twice denied in the closing moments of the first half, combining with Maddison and Skipp expertly but denied his deserved goal. Bissouma’s renaissance with an attack-minded coach will be like a new signing for this new-look Spurs side.

Yves Bissouma signed for Tottenham in June 2022. Image: Tottenham Hotspur

James Maddison needs time to settle and find his place within his new club but his creative prowess is undeniable; the 40 million pound signing arrived in North London with keen interest as Spurs seemed to have finally found the lock-picker they’ve been lacking in recent years. Linking up well with Bissouma, Skipp and Kane, Maddison will be crucial to Postecoglou’s vision, once he finds the keys in his new role.

Oliver Skipp returned to this Tottenham side off the back of a successful UEFA European Under-21 Championship with England, gaining valuable experience at international level. A player not usually associated with chance creation, Skipp found himself occupying advanced positions throughout the first half and could’ve easily nicked himself a goal.

Chances Galore

Tottenham may not have buried any of the eleven shots they took in the first half, but early signs are there that this team will be able to a bucket of goals once they’ve cracked the final pass. Too many times throughout the opening 45, Tottenham lacked the crucial finish that would have calmed this team down, but their incessant attacks were a welcomed sight after years of negative, reactive football.

Manor Soloman looked electric down that left side, and with Heung-Min Son absent from the starting line-up, Tottenham fans were able to take a look at their new signing. The Israeli winger almost enjoyed a perfect introduction to impress his new fans, cutting in on his favoured right foot and curling one into the top corner, ”We absolutely dominated the whole match, along with creating so many chances, the future is very bright for us.” It’s clear the winger will be essential to Posecoglou’s system and seems to be an extremely positive acquisition.

Spurs couldn’t buy a goal in the first half but impressed after the break. Richarlison looked comfortable in this number 9 role, occupying the half-space rubbing shoulders with the West Ham backline. He presented a good focal point for the side and attacked the line well, denied a spectacular goal in the 59th minute, getting behind the last man and setting himself well with a deft touch of the ball and striking the post.

The Brazilian striker looked lively in his first game back but his positional flaws were exposed up against a resolute West Ham defence. If Richarlison is to fill into the massive Kane-shaped hole, should the England captain leave, he simply needs to find the target more often.

Manor Solomon looked sharp in his first Tottenham Hotspur appearance. Image @SpursOfficial

This is an inflated Tottenham squad

Ange Postecoglou was able to replace every single Tottenham player at half-time, with a bloated squad of players brought in to appease several managers and their systems over the last four years, “It’s like I’m working with 30 new signings, mate.” the Australian manager said.

Of course, this is a preseason fixture and a chance for the new boss to assess his new players in a semi-competitive environment. It’s clear that, on paper, the first-half eleven represented the level that Postecoglou will be demanding from his new squad, but once the second-half team entered the fray, the supposed fringe players were relentless in possession, creating chance after chance in search of a goal.

Gio Lo Celso showed his talents and linked up well with Pape Matar Sarr and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in that midfield three, relishing the role he adopted in the second half; his goal was instinctive and the result of attack-minded positioning and awareness. Perisic too deserves a special mention as chief creator for the two Spurs goals in the second half, proving his efficacy in a possession-based system.

Pape Matar Sarr continued the glimpses of good form that he was showing in cameo appearances last season, and excels in this type of system of one-touch fast-paced football in close quarters, relishing the chance to attack the West Ham whenever he could and driving into available space.

Outgoings could leave a leadership void

For all the criticism that’s hurtled the way of Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Ivan Perisic and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, their leadership and presence within this dressing room are undeniable. If, as we’re to believe, all four are set to leave the club during this window, their departures could inadvertently produce a leadership void within the squad.

Destiny Udogie celebrates his Tottenham Hotspur goal with Ivan Perisic. Image: Getty

Harry Kane needs to stay, not only for his goalscoring threat and creative talents, but as captain and leader of this Spurs team in transition. So far, no club has come anywhere near the valuation set by Daniel Levy, with the Club’s official position that they want to tie down their talisman to a new long-term deal. Whatever the outcome of this fresh Kane saga, it’s in everyone’s best interests to finalise it swiftly.

This Tottenham Hotspur side is almost unrecognisable from the deflated team during the finals days of the previous regime. In a short space of time, Ange Postecoglou and his backroom staff have been trying to implement a new system, and even in defeat, the Australian manager will have plenty of positives to take away.

“We want to be a team that plays good football and dominates games, but we obviously want to win and that’s not the most important thing right now for me,” Postecologu admits. “So we’ve got work to do, we knew that, no surprises out there, but really encouraged with either the way the boys have been working, harder training and secondly, their endeavours to implement it in their game.”

Ange ball is clearly in full swing Down Under.