It’s taken three years and several false starts, but with the appointment of Ange Postecoglou from Celtic as head coach this morning, it finally feels like Tottenham Hotspur have turned the page from the Mauricio Pochettino era. To be sure, Big Ange is an emphatically different manager from any of the past three that Spurs have employed permanently — Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo, and Antonio Conte.
Uncompromising and unwavering in his vision of attacking and progressive football, Postecoglou is a big risk at a time when Spurs have whiffed on several high-profile decisions. But he also feels like a throw-back to when Spurs had to take risks on lesser known managerial talents, and looked for diamonds in the rough in the hopes that they could be polished into something beautiful.
Big Ange doesn’t start work officially until July 1 for reasons not fully explained, but the hard work begins now, and we shouldn’t sleep on the enormity of the job ahead of him. Postecoglou’s remit is to take an aging, bloated, underperforming squad built for defend-and-counter managers and transform them into a team that wants the ball and is always looking to attack. That’s going to take some time and likely some growing pains, and it also likely means being ruthless with the current squad.
Case in point, Dan Kilpatrick writing in the Evening Standard suggests that as many as ten current Spurs players could be shown the gate. Some of them are obvious — Hugo Lloris has already said he wants to go, Ivan Perisic is angling to return to Italy, and there’s a host of players currently on loan who may not return (Harry Winks, Giovani Lo Celso, Sergio Reguilon, Bryan Gil). But Kilpatrick also says the club may listen to offers for Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, Ryan Sessegnon, and Ben Davies.
That’s not even addressing the homegrown elephant in the room — what to do with Harry Kane. Spurs’ talismanic striker is entering into the final year of his contract and is already attracting interest from Manchester United and Real Madrid, with reports of Madrid preparing an €80m opening offer. Do Spurs want to sell Harry Kane to fund an overhaul? Should they? Postecoglou will be very involved in whatever path the club chooses to pursue, and it’s likely going to be one of the first — and biggest — litmus tests of his tenure.
And then there’s this, which dropped this morning:
Can also reveal Tottenham’s Son Heung-min is a Saudi target for 2024 and legwork already underway. One to keep an eye on. pic.twitter.com/PxLUYHDjAG— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) June 6, 2023
Spurs have been reliant — some would say overly so — on the production of Kane and Son Heung-Min, and these two are the most popular amongst fans at the club right now. There’s ruthless... and then there’s reckless, but Postecoglou is no stranger to adversity and has an unflinching belief in his own abilities to retool a squad into the way he wants them to play. That’s not to say that the above tweet infers Spurs are selling Kane and Son this summer — but what if they did? What would it mean? And how would it make us feel? (Answer: unspeakably sad)
Regardless, the task ahead of Big Ange is massive and Spurs fans should probably expect some growing pains next season. Tottenham have tried “win-now” managers and they haven’t worked. This time they’re attempting something different, and it’s likely going to hurt in the short term. The phrase “painful rebuild” has been tossed around since Pochettino’s last season but it feels like this time we’re actually going to get one.
Making these kinds of personnel and tactical shifts are akin to trying to turn a battleship — it takes awhile, but Postecoglou has proven that once he gets his team pointed in the right direction it becomes difficult to shift from its course. The question is whether this fanbase, which has turned toxic over the past three seasons, has the patience and vision to see this new project through along with its new head coach.