Tottenham may live to regret Ward-Prowse snub as Maddison fears realised

Tottenham will be proud of the business they have done since Ange Postecoglou took charge this summer after a fine start to the season. The north London outfit have enjoyed an impressive first three months under the Australian, with signings such as James Maddison, Micky van de Ven and Guglielmo Vicario thriving at their new club. But after passing up the chance to sign James Ward-Prowse, there will be some at the club questioning whether their choice was the right one.

As Spurs suffered their second defeat in the space of six days with a 2-1 loss at Wolves, Ward-Prowse – a player they reportedly tracked for much of the summer – excelled in the capital with two assists to cap a fine overall display in a 3-2 success over Nottingham Forest for West Ham.

The 29-year-old’s deliveries were a threat for the entirety of the game as Forest’s defenders didn’t know how to cope with his corners and free-kicks. His whipped corner delivery found Jarrod Bowen who made no mistake with his header to make it 2-2.

West Ham boss David Moyes recognised that Ward-Prowse’s set pieces were causing problems and sent on Tomas Soucek towards the end of the game. That proved paid dividends late on when the Czech delivered the game winner with a powerful header from a Ward-Prowse delivery again.

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At the peak of his powers, the midfielder is arguably the best set-piece specialist in the Premier League – and possibly Europe too now that Lionel Messi has departed to the United States. For that reason, he would have been a smart addition for any squad in the Premier League after scoring 11 goals last season, but Spurs decided not to pursue a deal after being put off by Southampton’s £40million asking price.

Instead, the Hammers agreed a £30m package with his club Southampton late in the window, using some of the money raised from Declan Rice’s £105m move to Arsenal. Since then, Ward-Prowse has scored two goals and provided 10 assists in 17 appearances in all competitions and is already a fans’ favourite at the London Stadium.

Spurs might have felt they were vindicated in their choice, having already spent £40m to sign Maddison from Leicester. Postecoglou also has Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Rodrigo Bentancur, Pape Matar Sarr and Yves Bissouma in his midfield, so it is natural that the 59-year-old coach felt he was equipped in the midfield areas.

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But it will hurt Spurs more knowing that Maddison now faces several weeks watching on from the sidelines. The playmaker injured his ankle in the 4-1 defeat by Chelsea and had to be substituted, with Spurs learning afterwards that the issue may be worse than first thought.

Postecoglou does not have an obvious player to fill the role in which Maddison has thrived, although Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gil may feel they are equipped to play as a No 10. Still, both players are fringe options at best and are not anywhere as effective as Ward-Prowse.

He would have proved to be an ideal player to step into the role – and now Postecoglou must look to find a solution in the coming weeks without Maddison, as he is forced to live with his choice, which may just prove to be the wrong one.

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