The Ange Postecoglou era has well and truly started at Tottenham Hotspur. While Spurs were far from perfect against Manchester United on Saturday, there was enough in their performance to suggest the Australian’s ideas and methods are starting to take root. Pape Sarr was one of the most impressive players on the pitch.
Sarr opened the scoring for the North London outfit in a moment that encapsulated Tottenham’s energy and drive against a lethargic opponent. Under Antonio Conte, Spurs’ central midfielders were told to stay deep and maintain the shape. Under Postecoglou, though, they have been liberated.
Yves Bissouma also caught the eye, making a series of interventions in the centre of the pitch to stop Manchester United attacking. The former Brighton man is finally showing why Tottenham wanted to sign him in the first place, but Bissouma is already known to Premier League fans. Sarr, however, has flown under the radar.
Signed in 2021, Sarr was loaned back to Metz for the 2021/22 season before finally making his Premier League debut for Tottenham in January 2023. There were glimpses of the 20-year-old’s ability at times last season, but Conte never built around Sarr in the way Postecoglou has. Sarr has become a central pillar for Spurs.
Against Manchester United, Postecoglou gave his central midfielders the freedom to get forward and join in attacks. This can overwhelm opposition defences and Saturday’s visitors to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium certainly didn’t handle the numbers coming at them from deep. United won’t be the last opponent to struggle with what Spurs throw at them this season.
“He’s been great from the moment I arrived,” Postecoglou said when asked about Sarr. “He’s got a great energy about him, but he’s got quality there too. He’s one of those midfielders who causes the opposition real problems because whether it’s him running with the ball or without the ball, he runs forward, he runs aggressively and he disrupts the opposition. He’s just got a great temperament for a young guy.”
Postecoglou’s Tottenham are a work-in-progress. The Australia’s style of play is high risk, but with that risk comes the prospect of reward. Spurs have lacked an identity for years. Postecoglou, though, is giving the team, and the club as a whole, a new sense of self. He appears to be a good fit for the North London outfit.
Players like Sarr exemplify how Postecoglou isn’t just integrating new signings like Micky van de Ven, James Madison and Guglielmo Vicario, but also getting more out of the squad he inherited. The former Celtic manager has clearly analysed each player on their strengths and weaknesses and is now harnessing them in the appropriate way.
Emerson Royal and Pedro Porro are being used as inverted full backs with Postecoglou relying on the pair to play out from the defensive line. Son Heung-min has still to score his first goal of the season, but the South Korean international has played with renewed energy against Brentford and Manchester United.
Richarlison has struggled to make much of an impression since joining Tottenham from Everton 12 months ago, but Postecoglou appears to have a firmer grasp of the Brazilian’s skill set than Conte ever did. Richarlison could still have something to offer Spurs despite the derision he continues to face.
Tottenham’s new double pivot of Bissouma and Sarr is giving them a strong platform in the centre of the pitch. Sarr is the sort of box-to-box operator Spurs have needed since the days of Mousa Dembele and there is room for him to improve further with the Senegalese still only 20. The future is bright for him.