Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League • England

Five Tottenham issues Ange Postecoglou must FIX this summer to arrest alarming slide

Ange Postecoglou, Daniel Levy

Ange Postecoglou has plenty of things to fix at Tottenham this summer

Tottenham have enjoyed a largely successful first season under Ange Postecoglou but there have been some really worrying signs recently and TEAMtalk looks at five issues the affable Aussie will need to overcome to make them genuine contenders next season.

Spurs started the new season like a train and looked almost unplayable through the first 10 games as ‘Ange ball’ really took off, before the Chelsea debacle left them battling injuries and suspensions.

Things have never really got back to that level, despite some encouraging results along the way. But, more recently, there have been signs of major flaws creeping into what Postecoglou is trying to achieve in north London – both tactically but, more importantly, with the players he is trying to implement his eye-catching style with.

Just two wins and four defeats in the last seven Premier League outings has left Tottenham on the brink of missing out on Champions League football for next season.

Indeed, Postecoglou’s men have lost three in a row now and head to title-challenging Liverpool next on Sunday, with Anfield a place they rarely taste any success.

The very manner of those defeats has meant a modicum of doubt has started to creep into the Postecoglou project and his stubbornness over how his team will never change the way they play – regardless of the situation or opponent.

But we’ll focus on the player side of things first. And with investment rumoured to be on the way at Spurs, this summer could be critical to Postecoglou’s ambitions of his side challenging for silverware and hopefully in the Champions League in 2024/25.

Lethal No.9 has to end Son Heung-min experiment

The Tottenham skipper was looked a shadow of the player who started the season so brightly and has only scored once in his last five games, either playing through the middle or out wide.

Teams have worked out that the South Korean is reliant on having space to run in behind due to his clever movement, with low blocks leaving him having very little influence on games – as evidenced in the last three defeats.

He did move back to the wing for Thursday night’s defeat at Chelsea but was still not particularly effective against a Chelsea defence that has hardly been strong this season.

Richarlison started the game at Stamford Bridge but Spurs will likely look to cut their losses with the Brazilian, despite his improvements this season. The former Everton man remains injury-prone but is also far too wasteful as a No.9 for a club that wants to challenge for top honours.

Several strikers continue to be linked with a switch to north London, including their torturer at Newcastle Aleksander Isak, Brentford’s Ivan Toney and Bournemouth frontman Dominic Solanke – to name but a few.

All three of those options are adaptable in the way that they play, having the pace to run in behind or the ability to link play with their backs to goal.

However, perhaps the best value of the three would be 26-year-old Solanke, who has taken his game to another level this season with 20 goals and four assists in 39 games in all competitions.

It’s not a slight on Son, as he’s just a victim of the club not truly replacing Kane, but just an issue that must be fixed and allow the South Korean to return to where he does his best work from the left wing.

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Tottenham crying out for true midfield general 

Apart from those first 10 games of the campaign, Postecoglou has had a real problem with his midfield selections ever since.

His style of play needs an engine room that can dominate and dictate the tempo of games but he does not appear to have the personnel to carry it out.

Yves Bissouma was the Brighton Yves Bissouma in that opening quarter of the campaign, running games from the No.6 position but has been largely ineffective since returning from the African Cup of Nations where he contracted malaria.

The ability is clearly there but for whatever reason he no longer looks worthy of meriting a regular starting spot.

Rodrigo Bentancur remains a class act but there are times when it’s obvious he is still feeling his way back from the ACL injury he suffered last season. To that end, he deserves a pass and will be all the better for having a full pre-season under Ange in the summer.

It’s no secret that Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will be on his way come the end of the season. The Dane has the bite and appetite for a midfield scrap but is not good enough in possession to play in front of Postecoglou’s high defensive line – when one error on the ball, as has been proved countless times this season, can lead to goals for the opposition.

Senegal star Pape Sarr also remains a work in progress, despite showing earlier in the season that he could be a solid performer at Premier League level.

But all that adds up to Tottenham not having a player in the middle of the park who will dominate the opposition and take a game by the scruff of the neck when needed.

To be fair to Postecoglou, he has identified as much and is expected to try and resolve that issue in the summer transfer window. The fact that he keeps changing his midfield pairing from game to game says it all.

Atalanta enforcer Ederson continues to be heavily linked with a switch to north London and fully showcased his talents in the Serie A side’s shock 3-0 Europa League win at Liverpool.

Piotr Zielinski, Adrien Rabiot and Conor Gallagher have also been heavily linked with moves to Spurs, although the latter is more of a box-to-box player than a true holding midfielder.

But whatever happens this summer, if Postecoglou does not bring in a true midfield leader then he’ll be left chopping and changing trying to find the right balance again.

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Stubborn Ange has to be more adaptable

Tottenham fans were rightly raving about Postecoglou during that opening 10-game unbeaten burst. The football was flowing, the defence looked solid and the effort levels were off the charts.

‘Ange Ball’ was also earning praise from reporters and pundits alike, while Postecoglou’s insistence that his side would carry on their high-risk strategy no matter the opposition was applauded – when things were going well that is.

There are plenty of clever tacticians in the Premier League though and Postecoglou has been found wanting on numerous occasions since his incredible start in north London.

Not every coach has worked out a way of stopping ‘Ange Ball’ but the ones that have have schooled Postecoglou tactically, and the worrying thing from a Tottenham perspective going forward is the lack of adaptability when things are going wrong.

Yes, there have been numerous home games where Tottenham have largely dominated but not taken their chances and hit by sucker punches – but many of the recent outings have thrown up some alarming issues.

Spurs remain so open when out of possession that quality sides can just rip through them, as was shown against Fulham, Newcastle and to a lesser extent Arsenal, where individual errors cost them badly.

But despite how the opposition line up or alter their tactics in-game, Postecoglou refuses to change the shape of his side or the way they play in and out of possession.

Both Fulham boss Marco Silva and Toon boss Eddie Howe tweaked what they normally do to combat Tottenham and beat them comfortably and Postecoglou had no answer, seemingly failing to see what was happening right in front of him.

That’s not to say that the Aussie is a bad coach, as when Tottenham have played to their full potential this season they’ve been a match for anyone.

But if an opposition manager effectively counters what you do then having a Plan B or C has to be considered.

Thankfully for Spurs, Postecoglou remains a real student of the game and the hope is that by adding more players to the starting XI that he wants will enable him to make his team more adaptable to every situation.

Listless first-half performances

Ange Postecoglou (Spurs manager)

Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou

This is something that has become more and more noticeable as the season has gone on and has to be rectified for next season.

Postecoglou has prided on himself on his side’s fitness levels and their ability to finish games strongly, and to be fair they have shown that time and time again this season.

However, it appears to come at the expense of pacing themselves, particularly in the first-half of many of their games this term and especially at home.

Tottenham have conceded first in countless games this season and are averaging 0.71 goals per game in the first half compared to 1.26 in the second.

There has been a real lack of urgency throughout the opening 45 minutes in many outings this term and even when they have made bright starts they can end up fizzling out after 10/15 minutes before then firing out of the blocks after the break.

That has happened far too often this season not be some form of instruction from management and cannot be a recipe for success next season.

Chasing games in the Premier League is tough, especially against the better sides and just leaves you open to the transition – as was once again evidenced on Tyneside.

The only logical explanation for this is that Postecoglou wants his side to be finishing games stronger than they start them But with different personnel on the pitch later in the game and the status of any match late on unknown before a ball is kicked – surely that’s a risky tactic that should be reconsidered.

The stats also back this up, with Tottenham scoring their highest number of goals in the last 10 minutes of matches this season (21%), compared to just 10% in the opening 10 minutes.

Ironically, Spurs are also conceding their highest proportion of goals late in games, with 22% coming between munites 81-90.

So perhaps they aren’t finishing quite as strongly as Ange would like.

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Set-piece woes a growing concern

Tottenham’s record of 14 set-piece goals conceded is worse than 14 other teams in the Premier League this season.

That figure is currently 12 more conceded than Manchester City,eight more than Arsenal and four more than Liverpool. Of the top five clubs, Aston Villa match Tottenham with 14 goals conceded.

Their inability to pick up runners in a mixed zone/man system is very clear and opponents are likely planning or that every week.

Former interim boss Ryan Mason is currently overseeing set-piece play at Spurs and top sides with any hope of winning silverware cannot be that leaky from set-piece play.

Tottenham certainly have the height to deal with set-pieces, with the likes of Cristian Romero, Micky van de Ven, Yves Bissouma, Destiny Udogie, Rodrigo Bentancur and Pape Sarr all six-footers.

However, it appears they still have plenty of work to do on the training pitch going forward as we round off the five things for Ange to turn Tottenham into genuine contenders.

If only football was that easy though!