Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Do not ever change, Ange Postecoglou. Never, ever change. Not that he will even if there were moments during this emotional rollercoaster against Manchester City when it appeared Tottenham Hotspur fans – as well as TV pundits – were going into meltdown.
Social media was alive with demands for Postecoglou to apply the brake, shut up shop, park the bus, be more defensive, to try and hold on and grind out a draw. But, mate, that is not going to happen. Not ever.
Ange Postecoglou salutes Tottenham Hotspur fans after Sunday’s 3-3 draw.Credit: Getty
“Glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur,” as that famous old song goes, but never in the modern-era have Spurs had a manager who lives quite so evangelically true to that romantic belief and also the motto: “To Dare is to Do”. Maybe even to didgeridoo for the Australian because he is getting such a distinctive tune out of this squad.
True, Postecoglou did bring on a defensive midfielder in Oliver Skipp in the 79th minute, just before Spurs again fell behind, but that did not change his team’s intent, even if it did its shape. They continued, as ever, whatever the circumstances, to go forward and gained their reward with a late dramatic equaliser.
At the end City will feel robbed. Their fury, at the appalling decision by referee Simon Hooper to whistle and award them a free-kick after Erling Haaland was fouled but also, crucially, after he was allowed to play on and release Jack Grealish free on goal, was evident and justified.
But they probably did not deserve to win and while it is a result that continues to blow open the Premier League title race – with City’s third successive draw conceding eight goals along the way – it is also one that revives Spurs’ top four hopes at a time when belief in “Ange-ball” was being eroded a little by results compounded by a crippling injury list.
A defeat here would have been a fourth in a row for Postecoglou, but, despite the circumstances, despite the mitigation he could have turned to – that others would have turned to – he did not change. Not a bit. And with that fortune favoured the brave.
The Premier League, and not just Spurs, is lucky to have him. This is what football is all about. This is why we love the game. Pep Guardiola will not change either and more power to the pair of them. It is why we were sated on such a spectacle; by such a Super Sunday.
“I don’t know any other way,” Postecoglou recently said – and Guardiola said something similar – but that is not quite true. It is more that neither of them believes in an alternative and its long-term value and credit to them for that.
How Postecoglou deserves immense credit for his approach. There were those who ridiculed his high-defensive line with just nine players on the pitch, which ultimately led to a 4-1 defeat at home by Chelsea, but it is that positivity that bred the belief that this game against the champions was never over.
Tottenham’s Dejan Kulusevski celebrates after scoring in the 90th minute to equalise the game against Manchester City.Credit: Getty
Not even in the 90th minute when Dejan Kulusevski showed the determination and desire to rise and meet Brennan Johnson’s cross, with the ball coming off his shoulder and flying in off the cross-bar, to earn this result and justify the manager.
For a club left traumatised by the negativity of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, it would have been a huge backward step to be more pragmatic, even if perceived wisdom is that is exactly what they should have done.
No, Postecoglou is taking a longer-term view. He was never going to abandon ultimate gain for short-term damage limitation because what message would that send to the club and the players? No, it is his way or no way.
Just assess the evidence. He arrived at the Etihad on that losing run and without seven first-team players – including his best two performers in James Maddison and Micky van de Ven – and with two only just returning from injury and a defence made up of four full-backs.
Inevitably the pre-match chat was all about whether he would compromise to try and eke out a point to end the losing run. If he did not, the argument went, then Spurs would be overwhelmed. And it could have happened. “First-half we were lucky to be in it, to be honest, City could have blown us away,” Postecoglou admitted, and it could easily have been four or five goals to one with the analysis from the TV pundits in agreement.
“It’s shocking from Spurs, they’re all over the shop. Against the best teams, you get found out,” declared Roy Keane, although by the end he had changed his tune into praising them with Jamie Carragher hitting the nail on the head when he said: “It’s not about today. This is about the long-term in the next two or three years to make Spurs the real deal.”
Son Heung-min opened the scoring after a scintillating counter-attack and then was unfortunate to concede the own goal that quickly drew City level – just 137 seconds. City also struck the frame of the goal twice, Haaland was guilty of a bad miss and Phil Foden finished a wonderful, flowing team move to give them the lead.
Postecoglou tweaked it at half-time. He brought on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and while it looked like a defensive move it was not as he retained the 4-2-3-1 shape, pushing Giovani Lo Celso further forward as a No.10 with Kulusevski out wide. And it worked. City were stifled and then conceded with Lo Celso firing home from 20 yards.
“I said to them if there is any fall-out I will take responsibility,” Postecoglou said, and how liberating that must be for players. There is no chastisement, no blame-game.
Even so, they conceded again with Yves Bissouma, clearly not fully fit, losing the ball to Rodri and Haaland crossing low for Grealish to claim his first goal of the season.
Lesser teams would have folded, but Spurs kept going, while City must lick their wounds having lost Jeremy Doku to an apparent injury and with Grealish and Rodri suspended for the tricky midweek fixture away to Aston Villa.
“We promised goals and we delivered, mate,” Postecoglou said.
They did indeed.
The Telegraph, London
News, results and expert analysis from the weekend of sport sent every Monday. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.
Most Viewed in Sport
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article