A Tottenham player Ange Postecoglou wasted no time relegating to the bench has been told his absence is a major part of why Spurs are now flying.
Spurs are unbeaten over their first five Premier League clashes this term and have heightened confidence heading into next weekend’s north London derby.
It’s been an instantaneous turnaround for Spurs since new boss Postecoglou took charge. The Australian has hit all the right notes in his public appearances and his words behind closed doors certainly seem to have struck a chord with the players.
Many believed Tottenham would struggle to improve on their disappointing eighth-placed finish last term without Harry Kane leading the line.
However, Spurs have thrived without their all-time leading scorer and are once again delivering an attractive brand of football. The season remains young, though Tottenham do have the look of a team who’ll challenge for the Champions League qualification places.
Aside from his tactical tweaks, formation change and greater freedom afforded to the players, Postecoglou has also altered the personnel.
Regular starters like Eric Dier, Ben Davies and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg have been ousted from the strongest eleven. The latter, 28, has now come in for stinging criticism from pundit Craig Burley.
Hojbjerg just “runs around a lot” and “passes it sideways”
When appearing on ESPN FC, the former Chelsea midfielder and Scotland international suggested Hojbjerg’s lack of dynamism was holding Spurs back.
Burley claimed all Hojbjerg does is run around and recycle possession. Some might describe that as keeping it neat and tidy, though in Burley’s eyes it was doing Spurs no favours whatsoever.
“I have never been a huge fan of Hojbjerg,” said Burley. “I am just not.
“I think he runs around a lot, passes it sideways, and then he was playing with [Oliver] Skipp.
“I think the personnel change, especially in midfield and the addition of Maddison, allied to the manager who wants them to go out and play… it’s just a huge difference.”
Postecoglou has quickly installed Yves Bissouma and Pape Sarr as his go-to midfield pairing. The duo have produced a series of all-action displays and are influencing the game positively at both ends of the pitch.
With Rodrigo Bentancur also due to come into the reckoning later in 2023 when fully fit after ACL surgery, Hojbjerg will be fourth choice at best where once he was first.