Finally, the dust has settled on last Saturday’s performance at home to Manchester United, and the high that I had been on seems to fading from blindly exhilarated to eager anticipation for Tottenham’s next match. That, in itself, is progress from the mild dread and anxiety experienced before fixtures last season.
I have spoken before about this being a new dawn for the club and the scenes during and after the match on Saturday would back that up. As I predicted, the stadium was rocking and it seemed like Ange Postecoglou’s name was reverberating around the ground almost through the entirety of the game.
There has been some criticism, from some quarters, of the extent of the celebrations after the game, with some referring to the team having a ‘victory lap’.
This was not the case. The players remaining on the pitch and being with the fans was about establishing a connection and a shared feeling that this is the start of a journey. A journey in which the supporters, the players and the management are traversing together.
This club is no longer the vehicle for a manager’s ego it is a united venture.
I was completely wrong. But why? I can only assume that due to the previous regimes, I am preconditioned for Tottenham to go for the more conservative option. Balance risk and reward. Play it safe. It seems I am also preconditioned to expect that the same starting eleven will play continuously unless injuries or suspensions play a part.
I am delighted to be wrong on both counts and despite Gary Neville’s pre-prepared narrative that inverted wing-backs are (to paraphrase) ‘a nonsense, and Pedro Porro is ill-equipped to play such a role’, both full-backs acquitted themselves well throughout. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend Charlie Eccleshare’s piece on Pedro Porro’s performance (The Athletic)
The main question for the Bournemouth fixture is will James Maddison play? The indications are that his knock will keep him out of this game at least. Instinctively, my brain is telling me that Ange will play either Hojbjerg or Skipp in one of the ‘eight’ positions alongside Sarr.
Yet if last week has taught me anything, my instincts need to be updated to fit the new mindset. Therefore, I presume that Ange will take the attacking, and probably the correct, option and start Giovani Lo Celso as a ‘like for like’ swap.
The other option mooted would be to experiment with Kulusevski in the middle, but this seems a little ‘square peg in a round hole’ for me.
In defence, I cannot see the centre-back pairing of Romero and Van de Ven changing, and Vicario should be brimming with confidence in goal after last week’s performance. At full-back, it is anyone’s guess, but I expect with seven days between games, Destiny Udogie will continue at left-back. Due to the fixture being away from home, Royal could be brought in for Porro, but I will not profess to knowing which side that coin will land on.
Up front, expect the front three of Son, Richarlison and Kulusevski to continue, although it does look quite bare in the forward line with only Solomon and Perisic potential replacements from the bench.
Key Player (away) Cristian Romero
Last week, I was completely wrong and completely right with my pick for key man. I picked Oliver Skipp and he did not play. However, his replacement – Pape Sarr – did everything I was looking for Skipp to do in his performance, so I will count that as a win (just).
This week, I have identified Romero as being fundamental to Spurs getting a positive result on their trip to the south coast. Against United, it was the midfield three who, quite rightly, received all the plaudits. However, Romero was quietly impressive.
His positioning was intelligent throughout, and more than anything else, he looked composed and disciplined – zero fouls so far this season (Sofascore). He is now, undoubtedly, the leader in that defence and he looks like he stepping up to the plate as one of the vice-captains.
Admittedly, it helps to defend against someone who seems to be sulking at having to play through the middle. However, this will not be the case against Bournemouth and Romero will have the task of martialling Dominic Solanke.
Solanke is now twenty-five and seems to be finding his feet as a Premier League striker. He adopts clever positions and can come deep to receive as well as running in behind the defence – a feature of Iraola’s management when coming up against teams with a high press such as Tottenham.
However, I think that Romero will be more than a match for him and hopefully will nullify his overall threat – hopefully without receiving any cards.
In a similar way to Tottenham, Bournemouth are undergoing somewhat of an identity change. Under Gary O’Neil they played in a functional system, which allowed them to stay in games and ultimately accrue enough points to survive. However, in the summer they replaced O’Neil with Andoni Iraola.
It is fair to say that Iraola, very much like Postecoglu, has a set tactical style and Bournemouth, very much like Tottenham, are adjusting to this.
The Spaniard will want his team to dominate possession and create space out wide for the full-backs to attack high up the pitch – which should be interesting, seeing as Tottenham’s full-backs seek to vacate this space by inverting.
Ostensibly, they will operate in a 4-2-3-1, but with the wingers playing narrow in order to create midfield dominance, yet again creating space for the full-backs (Coaches’ Voice).
Bournemouth have gained just one point in their first two games, that being the home draw with West Ham. In their other fixture, despite taking a shock early lead, they succumbed to defeat at ten-man Liverpool – in the process conceding twenty-six shots (Sofascore).
Key Player (home) Max Aarons
For years, Max Aarons has been highly regarded and linked with a move away from Norwich. He finally got his move this summer and made the switch to Bournemouth.
As I’ve written, Iraola places high importance on the fullbacks to attack in his formation and Aarons will be key to that. Having watched Tottenham play, they know that there will potentially be space to exploit and if Aarons can do that, he could really cause problems for the Tottenham left-hand side, especially if Udogie has surged forward and Van de Ven is caught on his heels.
More generally, this is a big season for the former England Under-21 international, with many seeing this move as his opportunity to finally demonstrate he can perform in the Premier League.
Despite Tottenham’s front line not looking as fluid as it might at the moment, I expect Tottenham to come away with all three points. Both of these teams will want to attack and therefore expect to see lots of passages of play resembling a basketball match.
Last season, Tottenham came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 courtesy of Rodrigo Benatancur’s injury-time winner, hopefully they don’t leave it too late this time!
Final Score: Bournemouth 1 – 3 Tottenham
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