Johnson becoming central to Postecoglou’s Tottenham masterplan

Sport

When Tottenham Hotspur needed a game-changer at half time of Saturday’s home match against Luton Town, Ange Postecoglou looked to Brennan Johnson. The Welsh winger had made an impact in several matches for Spurs, but the impression he made in the comeback win over Luton was more profound than anything he’d produced before.

Johnson registered the assist for Son Heung-min’s winner. He also opened up the game to favour Tottenham and their contingent of attackers who are most effective when they can play in quick transition. Until Johnson’s introduction, Spurs’ attacking play had been laboured. With the Welshman on the pitch, though, it was free flowing.

“He’s still young, he’s developing,” said Postecoglou about Johnson. “He’s moved to a big club where there’s big expectations when you have a big transfer fee, but for the most part I think he’s handled it really well. He’s another one understanding more and more how we want to play and he’s adjusting to it. Like I said, for the most part he’s handled himself really well this year.”

Signed from Nottingham Forest for £47.5m last summer, it wasn’t immediately clear what Tottenham’s plan for Johnson was. He’d enjoyed a successful first season in the Premier League at the City Ground, but many believed Spurs had overpaid for a player who still played with a certain rawness.

Postecoglou, however, has worked hard to develop Johnson’s game. He hasn’t done anything to diminish the natural explosiveness possessed by the Welsh international, but Johnson is playing with sharpness and clarity in the final third. He is making better decisions when he has the ball in high-value areas.

Tottenham under Postecoglou are a work-in-progress. There’s no denying the strides forward they have taken as an attacking outfit. With Postecoglou at the helm, Spurs have earned a reputation for being one of the most entertaining teams in the Premier League. Supporters have embraced the Australian coach for this reason.

Defensively, there are still weaknesses for Postecoglou to address and questions have been asked of Tottenham’s squad depth. The North London club now has a platform to build on, though. Even if Spurs miss out on Champions League qualification, Postecoglou has established a style of play that should sustain the club for years to come. He has completely changed the culture.

On a fundamental level, Postecoglou is exceptional at identifying the qualities of a player and working to fit them into a system in a way that pushes those qualities to the forefront. Johnson is just one of several examples of this. His career will benefit for having worked under the Tottenham Hotspur boss.

In the post-Gareth Bale age, Johnson is already a key figure for Wales. He was a driving force for Rob Page’s side as they came within a penalty shootout of beating Poland to qualify for Euro 2024. Of course, it’s unlikely Johnson will ever fully replace Bale for Wales, but he has given the national team a different dimension.

The verticality provided by Johnson has also given Tottenham a different dimension, as was clear in the way they fought back to win against Luton Town. Johnson gave Spurs some much-needed width and helped stretch the opposition defence. His presence allowed the North London outfit to go from front to back in a quicker manner – as they did for the winning goal.

Spurs signed Johnson as a bet that he would develop into a key figure, but he has already made that progression in the space of a single season. Johnson won’t start every match for Tottenham. Postecoglou will continue to rotate him in and out of the team. As long as he’s on the pitch, though, the Welshman will make an impact.

Author: Mark Hayes