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Brentford vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: A breath of fresh air

The new season begins with a refreshingly positive outlook.

Tottenham Hotspur v Brentford FC - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Welcome back, Tottenham Hotspur. Not just to the start of a new Premier League season, but to the beginning of something that feels different, yet comfortingly familiar. Maybe Ange Postecoglou is not the perfect answer, but he certainly feels better than Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, and for once, supporters can enter the year with a sense of refreshed hope that has been missing for quite some time.

The source of that excitement comes from what should transpire on the pitch: Possession and fluidity! The return of a back four! A functional midfield! Players who actually care again?! Perhaps it sounds too good to be true, but after how last season played out, it would not take a miracle to see some fairly substantial improvements.

All that being said, expectations should be tempered as the season gets started. Clubs with new managers typically experience a bumpy ramp-up, and the never-ending Harry Kane saga — and subsequent signings (hopefully) — does not make it easy for Postecoglou to know how to plan ahead.

Sunday’s opponent is not the simplest draw, either. Since Brentford’s promotion two years ago, Spurs have collected just five points in four fixtures, including a pair of draws at the Brentford Community Stadium. The teams met just a few months ago on the penultimate matchweek in a typical mediocre showing by Tottenham, but it did provide this memorable Kane belter at least.

Brentford (0pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (0pts)

Date: Sunday, August 13
Time: 9:00 am ET, 2:00 pm UK
Location: Gtech Community Stadium, Brentford
TV: Peacock Premium (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

Brentford finished ninth last season (just a point behind Spurs) and will likely finish in that range again. Thomas Frank continues to employ a high-press, counter-attacking system that fits the squad and gets the needed results. The defense allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the league last year, and Tottenham did not have the easiest time generating much in either fixture.

This year’s squad might end up defined by two absences, however. Goalkeeper David Raya is on the way out (just not to Spurs), which may weaken the Bees’ solid defensive numbers. On the other end of the pitch, Ivan Toney will miss half the season after his gambling forays, and replacing his contributions is a very tall task for the incoming Kevin Schade. Given these changes, it seems like the odds of Brentford slipping down the table are much higher than any sort of meaningful climb.

Lilywhite Spotlight: An inspired midfield

There were problems all over the pitch for Spurs last season, but much of that can be traced back to the midfield. Sunday will be a great chance for Tottenham to debut a new energy, taking on a low-possession (16th-highest last season), but defensively aggressive midfield from the home side.

It all begins with James Maddison, who brings a level of creativity and decisiveness this squad has lacked since the departure of Christian Eriksen. Though Rodrigo Bentancur is not yet fit, even some combination of Oliver Skipp, Yves Bissouma, and Pape Matar Sarr (or maybe Giovani Lo Celso??) behind Maddison until then will be a huge boost over years past.

Spurs need to stay on the front foot and look to both control the match and generate the best opportunities. The Bees should be up for the challenge, but a successful first showing by the new-look midfield would mean that positive things lie ahead for Postecoglou and his revamped side this season.