Tottenham Hotspur head to Bournemouth on Saturday for an early kick-off away against the Cherries. Spurs are riding a high after a big 2-0 home win over Manchester United, but in his weekly press conference Ange Postecoglou hinted that he’s definitely not looking past Bournemouth despite them narrowly avoiding relegation last season.
But top of mind was the status of James Maddison, who underwent a scan on his leg after leaving the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last weekend on crutches and wearing a protective boot. Postecoglou said that Maddison is back in full training with Spurs, but stopped short of saying that he’d start, or even feature, at Bournemouth tomorrow.
“Yeah Madders trained today unrestricted. We’ll see how he pulls up but at this stage it looks like he will be available. We’ll assess how he feels but yeah he trained.
“I think it was the incident when [Cristian] Romero got brought down. He had a shot and it was a block-tackle. His ankle was a bit sore after that, but the medical team looked after him.
“There was no real push to have him available. It was down to him. People would have seen him in a moon boot, but it was more precautionary. He has felt good and probably could have trained yesterday. He trained today unrestricted, so obviously nothing serious.
So this tells us something good, but doesn’t actually tell us a lot. It’s obviously fantastic news that Madders isn’t seriously injured, because he’s been absolutely fantastic in Tottenham’s opening two matches and is clearly Postecoglou’s first choice option as a creative No. 10. But from what we’ve seen so far, Ange is also a manager who doesn’t take risks with his players — witness him subbing off Cuti Romero after 13 minutes in the draw at Brentford.
So does this mean Maddison will play tomorrow? Dunno! Does it mean he’ll start, or come in as a sub? Dunno! I would, however, very much like to see some minutes for Giovani Lo Celso, who played pretty fantastic himself in a similar role in the preseason, so in some ways holding Maddison out at least for part of the match as a precaution might not be a bad idea.
Ange also mentioned Gio in a follow-up about Maddison potentially sitting, and noted that if Maddison isn’t able to play, it’s not a given that Lo Celso would slot immediately in his position.
“I think the kind of way I set up my teams is it’s never a like for like replacement in anything we do because I think you’re then fixed into one way of playing. I think every player brings their own qualities to an existing structure. It makes you less predictable.
“So if Madders wasn’t able to play then in the midfield I’ve got guys like Pierre [Hojbjerg], Gio [Lo Celso] and [Oliver Skipp] who can fill that role their own way and I don’t think it would affect us as a team, hopefully just with the disclaimer that we’re very still very early in the stages of building this team.
“That’s what we want going forward, that if someone misses out then we don’t need a like for like replacement. It’s the same with the wingers, the defenders, the strikers. I like players who bring something different because it allows you to have flexibility within what is a more defined structure.
“[Yves Bissouma] and Pape [Sarr] have been really good. They were here pretty much from when I arrived when the other guys were away on international duty. They were here from the start and they’ve always had a good energy about them. Skippy has been good whenever he’s played for us. He brings the same kind of energy. I thought Pierre was good when he came on at the weekend. Gio has been unlucky that he hasn’t had any game time but again been really impressed.
“We’re going to need it. We’re two games into a long season. We’ve seen other clubs having to cope with injuries and I’m sure at some point that’s going to hit us. We need a strong squad and we’ve got three games next week. Three away games so we’re definitely going to use pretty much everyone in the squad through that week. It’s important to know that they’re ready.”
Elsewhere, Ange was asked about Richarlison, who has struggled to get on the end of his few chances in the box in the opening two games and who showed visible frustration when he was subbed off against Manchester United last weekend. Postecoglou said that Richy’s frustration wasn’t at being subbed but at how he felt he had played in the match, and expressed confidence in his abilities and how he wants to him to play.
“I don’t think he was frustrated with his performance. I think he was maybe a little bit disappointed a couple of things didn’t fall his way, but I thought his performance was very good on the day. He actually played an important part in the way we set up and was a real focal point. It is like with all these things, people look at outcomes and with strikers it is about goals and nothing else.
“I am sure Richy wants to score goals but far more important for me is how he is contributing to our team set-up and I thought he was good last weekend. From my perspective that is the key thing and I am sure the goals will come, but there is no point getting the goals if the team is not performing.”
Ange was also asked about the status of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, a key player under Antonio Conte last season who has mostly been relegated to bench duty and who is actively linked with a transfer to Atletico Madrid this summer. Postecoglou had good things to say about Pierre, but spent most of his time talking about how important it is to bring change to the squad... which doesn’t seem to bode well towards General Ho’s long-term future.
“He’s training well. I get that people want to read into that, but if you want to change you have to change. You can’t keep doing everything the same and expect a different outcome. It’s pretty obvious. I’ve always done that wherever I’ve done. Unless I change things, personnel or staff or manner of playing, then what am I doing? I’m definitely not that arrogant to think that just me walking in is going to give us success.
“You have to actually make meaningful change. That’s what the club wanted. By appointing me, I presume they wanted to go in a different direction. Then it’s about making those decisions that institute change. Does it bring more out of people? Pierre, he trains really hard every day. I thought he played a really important role coming on for us against Manchester United the other day. I haven’t seen that it’s diminished his role or he’s not happy. Hopefully you’ve got a couple of players in every position that are pushing each other every day to be the best they can be.”
Tottenham kick off against Bournemouth in the early match tomorrow morning — 7:30 a.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. UK.