MATT BARLOW: Ange Postecoglou won't let his Tottenham side unravel

MATT BARLOW: Ange Postecoglou won’t let his Tottenham side unravel after playing it safe in second straight loss against Wolves… the Australian will feel he must strengthen in January after a tough week

  • A depleted Tottenham side were too passive in their late 2-1 defeat to Wolves  
  • Ange Postecoglou must be eyeing January deals after his fringe stars struggled  
  • What is the WORST Premier League hat-trick? – Find out on It’s All Coming Up 

Tottenham’s players left Wolverhampton in no doubt about where they had gone wrong.

‘We almost went too safe,’ said Brennan Johnson, whose goal gave Spurs the lead in the third minute. ‘Including myself, we all went into safety mode thinking if we see it out we get three points.

‘We went back into the headspace of getting three points, and that’s not the mentality we have to have. We can’t be playing like that. We’ll try to be more aggressive in the pressing and in the positioning and playing forwards.’

Johnson’s summary echoed Ange Postecoglou’s post-match comments, which suggests it is a family-friendly version of discussions inside the dressing room after stoppage-time goals by Pablo Sarabia and Mario Lemina spun the game on its head.

Postecoglou thought his players lacked the usual ‘aggression’ and ‘positivity’, wondering aloud if it might be because those coming in lacked the fluency and rhythm of regular competition.

Ange Postecoglou’s depleted Tottenham side lacked their usual energy in Wolves loss 

Four new players came in after a raft of injuries and suspensions to disrupt the team’s rhythm

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It wasn’t just the four coming in for James Maddison, Cristian Romero, Micky van de Ven and Destiny Udogie, because the bench offered the real clue to how stretched the squad has become.

Richarlison, Manor Solomon, Ivan Perisic and Ryan Sessegnon were also injured and the unused subs included three teenagers.

Spurs finished with players on the pitch such as Eric Dier, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gil who know Postecoglou is not convinced they can play in the system he wants to play. How’s their confidence?

Dier and Ben Davies at centre half defended solidly as you might expect from good defenders. They cannot boast the extreme recovery speed of Van de Ven but protected their goalkeeper well for 90 minutes. Maybe a lack of match fitness caught them up as Wolves levelled in the 91st minute and won it six minutes later.

Hojbjerg, selected ahead of Lo Celso to replace Maddison in midfield, did well at what he does, disrupting in midfield, winning and moving the ball. He created a good chance on the break for Johnson, who could not find a finish to put Spurs 2-0 up.

Tottenham looked disconnected as they played it safe without the quality of key players 

Yet Postecoglou did not like what he saw from his team. When it works all the parts are interconnected. When they disconnect it does not. He muttered too about ‘self-preservation’.

He felt some players were unwilling to commit for fear of leaving themselves exposed to Wolves’ threat.

Up front, Spurs had the same trio selected against Chelsea; plenty of pace but without generating the same intensity. Son Heung-min came into the game with eight goals in eight games since moving to centre forward but never looked like scoring.

They missed the imagination and subtlety of Maddison’s passing, of course. Also, the free-forward running of others in a midfield perhaps aware of the need to shield a depleted back four.

Yves Bissouma was subdued in midfield as another key part of Postecoglou’s side was nullified

Wolves deserved to win after their two stoppage time goals as they took advantage of Spurs’ lack of pressing

Yves Bissouma was certainly subdued and Wolves dominated this department.

Not only did Tottenham miss the recovery speed of Van de Ven and Romero and therefore the confidence in their high defensive line, they missed their forward drive from the back, the desire to press into midfield, releasing others to press into the front line.

Take nothing from Wolves, however, who took advantage and deserved to win, although they left it late. Sarabia made a fabulous 10-minute cameo, scoring a sublime equaliser and making the winner for Lemina, the best player on the pitch.

‘An amazing moment,’ said Sarabia. ‘It’s important we take confidence in ourselves.’

Molineux feared the worst when Julen Lopetegui quit on the eve of the season but Gary O’Neil has salvaged their spirit just as he did when he stepped into a similar mess at Bournemouth last year.

Postecoglou will no doubt have been eyeing up January signings who can fulfil his vision

They are on course to avoid a relegation scrap, and have taken points at home against Manchester City, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Spurs.

O’Neil can relax and enjoy the international break while Postecoglou will train his thoughts on the best way to stop two defeats turning into a major unravelling.

Tottenham made their best start to a season since 1960-61 through 10 games but the record of 26 points from 12 is only three better than the same stage of last season under Antonio Conte, and one better than 2020-21 under Jose Mourinho, both of which ended badly. 

These two defeats in a week will reinforce Postecoglou’s feeling that he needs to strengthen in January. Until then, he has to cajole and convince.

Maddison and Van de Ven are out until the new year. Romero has two more games of his ban to serve and although Udogie can return next game against Aston Villa and Rodrigo Bentancur could be ready to start after the break, Bissouma is out after collecting his fifth yellow card of the Premier League season.


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