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This is an ode to Ange. Never before, in the Premier League, has a manager had such a rapidly transformative effect on a squad, on a club, on a fan base.
Not under Jose Mourinho, in his first spell at Chelsea, nor under Carlo Ancelotti at the same club. Nor at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp or even Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Ange Postecoglou has led the Spurs to their best start to a season since the 1960s.Credit: Getty Images
The evidence is there. Clear and unequivocal. No manager new to the Premier League has gained as many points – 23 – as Ange Postecoglou has earned at Tottenham Hotspur in the first nine games. It remains a relatively small sample size, of course, but Spurs are unrecognisable from the sorry bunch that he inherited.
Gone is the negativity, the burden, the sourness as Spurs returned to the top of the table with a result that, frankly, was never in doubt.
Under Postecoglou, Spurs are the most “non-Spursy” side possible. There was an assured inevitability about their victory over Fulham this week. He even had the confidence to take off his match-winning axis of James Maddison and Son Heung-min who, along with Richarlison, departed to standing ovations and still saw it out against a Fulham side that constantly carried a threat and forced two outstanding saves from the impressive Guglielmo Vicario.
At the end, following the players in a lap of honour, slowly walked Postecoglou. With his raincoat and tie he looked like the kind of world-weary detective upon whom 1970s television series were based upon. The Australian has that kind of gruff charisma that always led to the case being solved.
“We took some liberties with the game which I wasn’t happy with,” Postecoglou later said, sounding every inch like the cop warning his junior colleagues not to cut corners in a key investigation.
“Really disappointed with the second half,” he added. “Worst 45 minutes we have had with the ball. I am not trying to make a point. That’s what I saw.
“I have said every week that we have a long way to go. Nothing has changed. It would be so much easier for me to sit here and say we are a great team. But we can be better. We really can.”
And how Spurs are loving it. They are loving Big Ange – at the final whistle they played Robbie Williams’ Angels and they also belted out Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Watching man-of-the-match Maddison return to the pitch to sing along to that country-and-western classic was almost as astonishing as his tireless performance.
James Maddison applauds the fans.Credit: Getty Images
But then Postecoglou and Spurs are defying all expectations and, gloriously, all convention. Here is a coach exploding that lazy excuse – boringly trotted out by some old-school managers who play equally boring soccer – that “you can only work with what you have got”. No, good coaches coach and all players, or at least those worth their salt, want to play creative, front-foot, positive soccer. Or they should not be in the Premier League.
It is hard to recall a team that is so unrecognisable from one campaign to the next. Yes, new players have been bought but Spurs finished this game with a central midfield axis of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp.
Spurs are a proposition. They are the real deal. They are in this race, they are top-four contenders and – who knows – without the exertions of European soccer may be even more than that. Certainly under Postecoglou they are remodelled or, rather, reborn. They are also unbeaten in the league and this is their best start to a season since 1961.
As they wheeled away after Son set up and Maddison scored the second goal, they were almost synchronised as they performed their “darts” celebration. It summed up just how in telepathically in the groove Spurs are at present and the confidence that his coursing through the entire team. “We want the fans to dream,” Maddison later said, and why not? For the first time since under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs’ supporters are daring to do that.
Maddison and Son-Hueng-min perform their darts celebration.Credit: AP
The Telegraph, London
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