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The key to Tottenham succeeding under Ange Postecoglou

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In the hit Disney+ show The Mandalorian, Din Djarin, the show’s Pedro Pascal portrayed protagonist, often utters a single, simple line, ‘this is the way.’ It’s a turn of phrase loaded with traditions and ideals all Mandalorians must uphold, regardless of the conditions of their life, one said in good times and in bad.

No matter how turbulent the Mandalorian’s life is, no matter the circumstances defining their existence, ‘the way’ is always adhered to. It’s a moral grounding that dictates all. In some respects, there aren’t too many differences between The Mandalorian and Ange Postecoglou. Where Din Djarin professes ‘this is the way,’ Postecoglou, the enigmatic Australian at the helm of Tottenham Hotspur cries; ‘it’s just who we are mate.’

Just as the Mandalorian does not compromise on his moral code, neither does Postecoglou. Regardless of where Tottenham are, regardless of how many injuries they have, or how attacking their opponents play, they know who they are and what they are.

Such strict adherence to the way is a relatively new concept in English football, something the game’s fundamentalists struggle to wrap their heads around. For millennia, English coaches and coaches coaching in England have often been grilled on their ‘plan B’, their backup plan when all else fails.

Most commonly, Plan Bs see sides shut up shop, ‘park the bus’, as they say, stuff players into their defensive box, pray for the best and hope for a counterattacking opportunity. Regardless of how counterproductive this may be, affording opponents superior field position and inviting them to break down your defensive wall, having a plan B is blindly viewed as good management.

When managers don’t have a plan B, there is an outcry, particularly when plan A isn’t succeeding. This is where Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham currently find themselves.

Having begun the 2023-24 season in fantastic form, Spurs’ performances have flatlined on the run home, with their lack of a Plan B coming under strenuous scrutiny.

Surprisingly, the first bobbles of the Postecoglou era have led some to question whether the Australian is the right man for the job. Such doubts are, of course, quite ludicrous, considering where Tottenham were when Ange took over and where they find themselves at the end of his first season in charge.

spurs v newcastle, ange postecoglou, Spurs

Why Spurs fans must be patient with Ange Postecoglou

Spurs finished the 2022-23 Premier League season eighth, having chewed up and spat out three managers over the 38-game campaign. Spurs’ football was dull, pragmatic and largely ineffective. The atmosphere around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was vitriolic. Few fans enjoyed attending the football.

Ange Postecoglou arrived from a successful spell at Celtic and not as the club’s first-choice appointment. Not even as the club’s second-choice appointment. Any excitement about the Australian’s arrival was met with equally strong doubts about his ability to manage at the highest level of European football.

After 10 games and eight wins, doubts about Postecoglou’s managerial abilities were quashed. Spurs played incredible football. Their fullbacks seamlessly drifted into midfield. James Maddison was the best midfielder in England for a period. Heung-Min Son remembered how to find the back of the net. Micky Van de Ven’s pace proved the perfect safety net for Spurs’ high-line and high press. Everything clicked.

Few could’ve envisioned such a seamless start to Tottenham life for Postecoglou. And yet the revolution had begun and never looked like slowing. Until the 11th game of the season at home against Chelsea. Two red cards, an ankle injury and a hamstring injury put the handbrake on Spurs’ season.

Postecoglou’s insistence on keeping his high line, despite lacking the necessary personnel for it, ultimately resulted in Chelsea scoring four and the Australian’s absent Plan B coming under fire. As the former Celtic manager said after the game: “It’s just who we are mate.”

Translation: This is the way.

Down on troops, imperfections crept into Spurs’ game. Passes that previously threaded defences found outstretched legs. Shots that used to fly into the back of the net hit the advertising boards. They returned to the pack.

Now, the club find themselves a slim chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League and doubts about Postecoglou’s managerial nous have returned. Some now question whether he is the right man for the job.

At the beginning of the season, Champions League qualification was a pipe dream for Tottenham fans. They finished 2022-23 eighth, sliding towards rotting in mid-table for the foreseeable future. Great managers came and went, unable to fire Spurs back into European football’s peak.

Now some doubt the man who allowed them to dream in the first place. Before a ball was kicked this season, it was simply inconceivable that Spurs would even be in the hunt for European football. They are well in the hunt. Even if the Champions League evades them, they’re in the driver’s seat for Europa League qualification.

This is all because of Ange. Spurs fans shouldn’t forget this. Yes, there is an air of arrogance in the way Postecoglou coaches. He is devout to his footballing principles and insistent on their implementation regardless of the conditions. It’s why Emerson Royal and Ben Davies played centre half in Van de Ven’s absence. He knows who he is. That feeling runs right through this Spurs side, regardless of results.

Spurs’ end to the 2023-24 season hasn’t been great. They’ve lost four in a row; to Newcastle, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, conceding more goals from set pieces than just about any Premier League side.

Because of this, Postecoglou’s management has come under fire, particularly his perceived ignorance towards Spurs’ set piece fallibility. This is football. Winning is the only way to silence the critics.

Defensively, question marks remain and there has been a drop in their general play intensity recently. The once ferocious press has cooled off, and their passing is both less incisive and decisive. But the Australian is too devout in his beliefs to shift. This is a positive.

In the short term, such an approach may not be fortuitous. Yet, it’s not short-term gains that Postecoglou chases. For him, there is a longer-term plan. In time, Spurs will get where they want to be but only if they remain strict disciples of his way and learn to persevere with the way.

James Maddison, FPL, wildcard
James Maddison was the Premier League’s standout performer to begin the season, though injuries derailed his campaign

Ange Postecoglou has improved Spurs drastically from last season. They play free, faster and more decisively. They’re less dull, more enjoyable and harder to face. Tottenham fans were only allowed to dream of Premier League titles and Champions League qualification this season because of this drastic turnaround.

To lose faith in the Australian now would be a fatal mistake. It’s about time that calls for patience are exercised. No growth comes without pain, progression is never linear. Spurs fans must understand this is the way to grow into the club they want to be, rather than the club they are. They must understand, ‘this is the way.’

Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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