It’s been an eventful summer at Tottenham Hotspur. Ange Postecoglou was appointed as head coach in June and has sought to make his mark, but speculation about star man Harry Kane’s future has stolen the headlines.
Rob Guest, Tottenham Hotspur reporter for football.london, takes us inside the Spurs camp ahead their trip to Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday.
With two games cancelled during Tottenham’s Asia-Pacific Tour, they have only played two pre-season friendlies at the time of speaking. What have you made of their preparations for the new campaign?
There have been positives and negatives. With Ange Postecoglou coming in at the start of June, they made a few moves in the transfer market, bringing in Guglielmo Vicario, James Maddison and Manor Solomon to the club and, since he has been taking training since the start of July, Postecoglou has been trying to implement his football philosophy on the players.
Everyone has seen, from his time at Celtic, that Postecoglou plays a really exciting, attacking brand of football and that is something Tottenham fans have been crying out for over the past couple of years. That is what he is trying to get across to the players and it was on show in the opening friendly against West Ham. They lost 3-2, but it was one of those games where the scoreline does not tell the tale of the game, because Spurs completely dominated possession, had 32 shots on goal and could have scored a lot more goals.
Spurs passed West Ham off the park and it was exactly the same when they played Lion City Sailors in Singapore at the end of July.
One of the big negatives of the tour was that the Leicester game was cancelled because of torrential rain in Bangkok, so that was not ideal at a time when the new manager wants to have a look at his players and make sure what they have been learning on the training pitch is coming across in a match scenario.
Spurs were also due to play Roma until they dropped out when they changed their preparations.
As you mentioned, Ange Postecoglou took up the vacant head coach role at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in June, following two very successful years in Scotland with Celtic. How did the fans react to his appointment?
There was talk of Mauricio Pochettino returning, as well as Julian Nagelsmann and Arne Slot, so initially, there were not many fans backing Postecoglou for the job, but once people read up on him and listened to interviews, they have been backing his case ever since.
Celtic fans worshipped Postecoglou and hung on every word he said, so I thought that, as soon as he spoke with the media, he would have Tottenham fans hooked and I think he does already.
There will be some question marks given his lack of experience managing in Europe, but those fans are likely to get behind him even more once Tottenham are on the pitch, playing good football and winning games.
Which player should Brentford fans keep an eye on?
I will go for someone different other than someone like Heung-min Son and say Yves Bissouma.
Bissouma joined Tottenham 12 months ago and had a really frustrating first season at the club. Everyone had seen how good a player he was at Brighton, but Tottenham have not seen that yet and he was restricted quite a bit under Antonio Conte.
With Conte’s tactical demands, Bissouma did not have the freedom he had at Brighton. He was behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur in the pecking order, which limited his minutes, then he had to undergo surgery at the start of February, which put him on the sidelines for three months.
He played the final three games of the season, one of which was against Brentford, and really performed well.
The fact he finished the season on a positive note certainly bodes well going into this season and Postecoglou has said he is going to be a key player in his system, playing the no.6 role like he did at Brighton. He has flourished in pre-season and looks like the player of old.
How is Postecoglou likely to set up his side in west London?
It will be a 4-3-3, which is a change from Conte’s 3-4-3 formation.
In terms of the team, it will likely be Vicario in goal, Emerson Royal at right-back, Cristian Romero and maybe Ben Davies in central defence and Destiny Udogie at left-back.
In midfield, I imagine it would have been Bissouma, Maddison and one of Pape Matar Sarr or Giovani Lo Celso, with Kane - if he is still at the club - Dejan Kulusevski and Son on either side of him.
Brentford’s 3-1 win in May was their first against Spurs since March 1948. What’s your score prediction for this season’s opener?
Spurs have not won at Brentford in the Premier League yet, but I am going to go for a slender 2-1 win to start the season.