If Tottenham Hotspur hadn’t already been electrified as a club by Ange Postecoglou’s arrival, it certainly was after the comeback win over Sheffield United. The comeback which saw Spurs score two goals deep into stoppage time to win 2-1 was the latest in Premier League history with Dejan Kulusevski’s winner coming in the 100th minute. Tottenham’s fans reacted in delirium.
Spurs have won four of their five Premier League fixtures so far this season, but results don’t fully quantify what is happening at the North London club right now. Postecoglou has revived Tottenham and with the first North London Derby of the Australian’s tenure this weekend the opportunity is there for a marker to be put down.
The difference between Antonio Conte’s Spurs and Postecoglou’s teams is stark on the basis of what has been witnessed over the early part of this season. While Conte sucked the life out of the club, his successor has imposed an attack-minded style of play that has quickly captivated the Tottenham support.
Tottenham are finally more than the sum of their parts. Yves Bissouma and Pape Sarr have forged a strong understanding as a double pivot in the centre of the pitch with Son Heung-min also revitalised in attack. The signing of James Maddison has given Spurs some much-needed creativity in between the lines too.
Destiny Udogie has given Tottenham mobility getting forward from the back with Emerson Royal also a much improved player since last season. Cristian Romero has cut out the mistakes from his game while Micky van de Ven has settled quickly as his central defensive partner since joining from Wolfsburg.
Brennan Johnson has given Spurs a different dimension in attack while even Richarlison has shown tentative signs of better form, scoring an important equaliser against Sheffield United. Postecoglou is maximising the talent at the North London club and has given Tottenham an identity again.
Not since the days of Mauricio Pochettino has there been so much open optimism around Tottenham Hotspur. While most fans were preparing for a transitional season, particularly after the exit of Harry Kane, some are now speculating whether Spurs could finish in the top four. Some are even dreaming of a title challenge.
“No, let them go, let them enjoy it,” Postecoglou said when asked if Spurs fans should manage their expectations. “I’ve said this before, my role is not to burst peoples’ bubbles. Let them get excited and ahead of themselves, that’s the beauty of being a supporter. They go through enough pain, let them enjoy and if they think we’re going to be world-beaters great, it’s then up to us to match those expectations.”
A victory over Arsenal on Sunday would send expectations soaring. The Gunners looked to have left behind their North London rivals last season, but the gap has been narrowed by Postecoglou and the changes he has made since joining Tottenham from Celtic this summer. This weekend’s match could prove this.
Alternatively, defeat to Arsenal could highlight how much further Tottenham have to progress before they can target the top of the Premier League table. Postecoglou’s team remains a work-in-progress and it’s possible their early-season results have masked this. A loss at the Emirates Stadium could expose this fact.
Postecoglou’s appointment, however, has taught Tottenham how to unlock the power of positive thinking. The club never replaced Kane as their top scorer, best player and frontman, but the team he left behind looks stronger as a unit than it has in a long time. Questions remain over certain defensive personnel, but the unit as a whole appears solid. A derby win would supercharge Spurs’ development even further.