Ange Postecoglou was especially verbose in today’s press conference ahead of Sunday’s match against Manchester City at the Etihad. There’s almost too much information to cover, and so you really should just go read the full transcript of the presser, it’s full of good stuff.
But I want to just focus on one extended answer he gave to a reporter’s question today. That question essentially boiled down to “Hey Ange, are you SURE you shouldn’t adjust your high-octane tactics to be a little more pragmatic against the defending Premier League champions?”
Here’s his response, in full.
“If you had to take a punt what do you reckon I would say? Just a wild guess? And I don’t want to be flippant about it and I get the question but I don’t do what I do to try to prove a point. You look at the top teams and there is one common trait amongst them. They all have a plan, they invest in that plan and stick to it. They don’t shy away from it at the first difficulty. If you look at City, Arsenal, Liverpool, all the teams that have dominated in recent years, they have a plan and stick to it. And you have to because whatever you believe in, whatever you strongly believe in as a person only gets tested in the toughest of times.
“It doesn’t get tested when things are going well and for me these are the important times because this will show what kind of football team we want to be. You can sort of shy away, say we have injuries, we’re playing Man City away but you’re either going to be a club that tries to knock off the big clubs or you are a big club. You are one or the other.
“My hope and my ambition for this club is to make it a big club and to do that you have to be successful and win things. To win things you have to have a plan, stick to it and believe in it and be prepared that during the tough times when you get scrutinised and invariable people will ask questions, which is fair enough because that’s what needs to happen. Again, it is the only way you can test yourself. There is no point everyone saying you’re brilliant, that’s not a good way to live your life. The best way to keep challenging yourself is when people challenge you so you need to be prepared for that and take that. You need to show some backbone through that time and that’s what I believe. So that is my methodology. I am not going there to show people, ‘watch me, I’ll take them on,’ it is because I think that is the way forward for us.”
Now, look. I don’t really blame whichever reporter asked this question (or was asked to ask it by their editor). Reporters regularly do excellent work and ask good questions in press conferences, but their primary job is to get quotable sound bytes for their stories. And boy howdy did Ange give some good ones here!
But I’ve heard some variation of this question asked in almost every press conference this season, because it feels like the assembled media simply can’t bring themselves to accept the answer. It’s one thing to read (and even write) about how Big Ange is uncompromising about his tactics, but your average football watcher is probably pretty jaded about these kinds of ideals. How many times have we seen some newly promoted team blaze through the Championship and declare they’re going to go hell-for-leather in the Premier League, only to invariably succumb to the allure of low-block-and-hoof-it football (and higher chance of survival)?
So i get it. I really do. But I also don’t think the Premier League has ever had someone like Ange who believes so completely in what he’s trying to do and will not budge a centimeter on his principles. If you watch the video of the press conference, you can see Ange looks visibly bemused by the question. He’s not being snarky or angry or grumpy — that first sentence is answered with an almost sardonic half-smile on his face, and then he goes on to give (another) very detailed answer about his attacking philosophy, the process, and why it doesn’t make sense to have his philosophy only to abandon it the moment things start to go pear-shaped.
It’s a great answer. It’s the same great answer he’s given to this question from his very first appearance as a Tottenham Hotspur head coach. And you know what, considering the state of the team and the number of injuries and absences within the first team squad combined with the obvious talent within City’s first XI, there’s every chance that it could spectacularly backfire. City really are that good, and Spurs are hardly at full strength.
But even if it does, that won’t change Ange’s game plan. This is who he is. This is what Spurs signed up for. This is what Spurs fans will get. And if nothing else he deserves to have the benefit of the doubt, for people to actually and truly believe him when he says this is actually how Spurs will play.