Ange Postecoglou can be regarded as the anthesis to what Tottenham Hotspur have employed since Mauricio Pochettino left the club in 2019.
A back five with minimal pressing and low block defending in a counter-attacking philosophy has been the style of football Spurs fans have endured under two of Europe’s most high-profile managers, plus Nuno Espírito Santo.
Chairman Daniel Levy promised a return to the Spurs DNA, branded by the man himself as “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining”, in May 2021 (Standard) and finally ahead of the 2023/24 season he looks to have delivered.
How Ange Postecoglou sets his teams up to attack
To fully analyse how Postecoglou will reshape the Tottenham squad, it is helpful to look at what he did at Celtic.
Winning the Scottish Premiership in the past two seasons, Postecoglou employed a back-four system with attacking, press-intensive football in a 4-3-3 formation.
Contrasting to Antonio Conte who demanded high-profile signings, Postecoglou likes to blend developing talent with more mature players, and should form a much healthier relationship with the fans and players.
Last season you would see Celtic so high up the pitch to try and suffocate opposition, and as a result they absolutely dominated teams.
For perspective, they had an average of 73% of possession across the entire of last season (FBRef), which even by the standards of how much Rangers and Celtic dominate the league, that is simply levels above.
Celtic would typically employ two inverted full-backs, who cut inside the pitch whilst the two wingers will stay as high and wide as possible to prevent the opposition to be too compact in the final third.
The space then that opens up, in theory, is exploited by two attacking eights who will link up with the centre forward.
To allow possession to be recirculated whilst the two attacking midfielders are high up, two ball-playing centre-backs will push up to create a triangle with the more defensive midfielder, the six.
As a result, you end up seeing a Celtic team that will have most, if not every single outfield player in the opposition half.
Now it sounds like a defensive calamity with the whole team so high up, however, this is where Postecoglou’s suffocating press switches on and where the inverted full-backs occupy the half space to force a turnover if possession is lost.
Now, the Premier League is much tougher and Spurs will not likely look identical to this, but the fundamental ideas of attacking, press-intensive football is there and has been part of Postecoglou’s identity everywhere he has gone.
When thinking of that style of play though, Tottenham’s squad is not really built for it.
Can Postecoglou reshape Udogie and Porro into full-backs? Maybe.
Is Harry Kane ready to be a high-energy, pressing striker? Probably not.
Do Tottenham have any strong ball-playing centre-backs besides Cristian Romero? Not really.
Are there any attacking eights at the club? Yes, Tottenham finally signed James Maddison.
Spurs do have a couple more attacking-minded midfielders but depends on whether Giovani Lo Celso or Tanguy Ndombele are re-embedded.
The latter isn’t likely as the role is intense and Ndombele has always lacked that energy for a pressing system.
All the questions above though Spurs should aim to fix through promoting youth and in the transfer market.
For example, Tottenham do have youngster Djed Spence, who played as a full-back at Nottingham Forest so it could be possible he gets a chance.
The full-back issue is most interesting though, with Postecoglou likely thinking about how he can use someone like Pedro Porro who is an out-and-out wing-back.
Destiny Udogie can be a bit temperamental defensively too, but is arguably more suited to an inverted full-back role over Porro based on his time at Udinese cutting inwards and finding himself in the penalty area.
With regards to centre-backs Spurs have been linked with 24 year old Edmond Tapsoba of Bayer Leverkusen who could be a young, clever, upgrade on Eric Dier and fit the description of a Postecoglou defender.
Another exciting link is Wolfsburg’s pacey centre-back, Micky Van de Ven, who has been linked with Liverpool to be Virgil Van Dijk’s understudy and more recently Tottenham.
The player can also play left-back too.
These players aren’t high profile but appear to be some of Europe’s bargain talent and do fit the description of what Postecoglou likes in his players.
Harry Kane is also linked with a move away from the club, which could significantly change up Tottenham’s transfer targets assuming a large sum of money comes into Levy’s hands, and would likely result in the club searching the market for a young, high energy forward capable of pressing.
If the England captain does stay though, it is possible Postecoglou uses a false nine system and allow the attacking eights and wingers to lead the press in stages, so Kane can occupy half-spaces.
The Australian coach did this at Melbourne Victory so it remains yet to be seen if he will bring this style back.
This does have the benefit of tactical flexibility though as Richarlison fits the bill as a pressing centre forward, so it isn’t all doom and gloom if Kane does leave.
However the summer plays out, Spurs fans can look forward to a fresh brand of football which should add some much-needed spark to the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
Have something to tell us about this article?