Postecoglou Has Stunned the Premier League. Now the Greek-Australian is Ready to Take on Pep

December 1, 2023

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After a record-breaking start as Tottenham manager, Ange Postecoglou is experiencing the other side to life in a job that has proved too much for some of the biggest names in soccer.

A three-game losing streak has seen Spurs fall from first to fifth in the Premier League, while a growing injury list means it could get worse for Postecoglou’s team as the congested Christmas schedule approaches.

But ahead of Sunday’s game at the home of defending champion Manchester City, the Australian coach is adamant he will stick to the formula that has made Tottenham the surprise package in England’s top flight this season.

“You look at the top teams and there’s one common trait amongst them — they’ve all got a plan, they invest in that plan, and they stick to it,” Postecoglou said. “They don’t shy away from that at the first difficulty. Whether it is City or Arsenal or Liverpool, all the teams that have dominated in recent years, they’ve got a plan and they stick to it. You have to.”

It is a measure of just how good Spurs’ early-season form was that even after three straight losses they are only four points off league leader Arsenal.

A win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday would see the Londoners move level on points with City.

“For me these are the important times because this will show what kind of football team we want to be,” Postecoglou said. “You can sort of shy away, say we have injuries, we’re playing Man City away, but you’re either going to be a club that tries to knock off the big clubs or you are a big club. You are one or the other.

“My hope and my ambition for this club is to make it a big club and to do that you have to be successful and win things.”

The former Australia and Celtic coach has won a lot of admirers for his blunt-talking approach and attacking style of play. He also won the Premier League manager of the month award for the first three months of the season as Tottenham charged ahead.

No other manager had achieved that feat in the first three months of a campaign — or the first three awards available to them in a job.

Not even Guardiola, who has led City to five league titles in six years.

Postecoglou’s impact on Spurs has been noted by City’s manager.

They faced each other once before when City played Yokohama F. Marinos in a preseason friendly in 2019. Postecoglou was coaching the Japanese team at the time.

City won 3-1, but it prompted Guardiola to say “wow, there are things I like.”

“We won, all respect to Yokohama, but we had better players,” Guardiola said. “But I realized for the first time I met him, and have followed him when he was at Celtic winning trophies and now in the short time he’s been (at Spurs).

“As a manager and a spectator I enjoy a lot watching them play with the approach they have. I think all the Spurs fans and the people in England can admit that his impact has been quick and really good.”

When hired by Tottenham in June, Postecoglou became the club’s fourth permanent manager since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino in 2019. In that time, serial winners like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte both came and went after short-lived spells.

Having led Celtic to five trophies in two seasons, Postecoglou was tasked with the responsibility of turning Spurs’ fortunes around after failing to qualify for Europe for the first time since 2009.

As if that task wasn’t hard enough, he had to do it without record scorer Harry Kane, who was sold to Bayern Munich in the offseason.

A run of eight wins from his first 10 league games in charge suggested Postecoglou had discovered a way to live without the iconic striker, with summer signing James Maddison in outstanding form and Son Heung-min helping to fill the scoring void.

But a 4-1 loss at home to Chelsea when down to nine players last month brought an end to that streak, with Spurs going on to lose against Wolves and Aston Villa. All of those defeats came after Postecoglou’s team had taken the lead and appear to show the fragility of a squad that has lost host of key players to injury, including Maddison, Richarlison and Ivan Perisic.

Rodrigo Bentancur has now been ruled out for about two months with an ankle injury.

Postecoglou refuses to compromise his style.

“Whatever you believe in, whatever you really strongly believe in, you as a person, only gets tested in the toughest of times. It doesn’t get tested when things are going well,” he said. “And for me these are the important times because this will show what kind of football team we want to be.”

Guardiola is expecting nothing other than a typical attacking performance from Postecoglou’s team on Sunday.

“I encourage our fans to come to the stadium because we will have fun,” he said.

By JAMES ROBSON AP Soccer Writer


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