(As an aside, by my count this is at least the third time this season that the league has given Spurs the shortest possible turn-around time between matches. That can and does happen sometimes, but it feels like it’s happened a TON to Spurs, which is weird considering they’re not playing in Europe. But I digress.)
This is the first time Ange Postecoglou has had an opportunity to speak to the media since the window closes, and while his pre-match press conference was about the match, there was a lot of talk about the transfer window and Tottenham’s team in the second half of the season.
But first — the team news. Big Ange confirmed that there were no new injury concerns among the group, and gave an update on Pape Sarr, who returned to North London from AFCON yesterday, and James Maddison’s ability to play two matches in short succession.
“Everyone got through the other night OK so no issues, obviously a short turnaround so the lads still recovering from that, so we haven’t really done too much training-wise but they all feel good. And obviously Pape Sarr’s back. He had a long trip back so we’ll assess him after training. Fair to say he’ll be involved but I’m not sure to what extent.
“[Maddison’s] a professional footballer, mate. I hope [he can cope with two matches a week] because if we’re going to be playing in Europe, unless he wants to pick and choose which games to play, I’d suggest that Madders will be right for tomorrow.”
Ange started the presser off by playing a joke on the assembled media, hinting that Spurs missed out on a major transfer target yesterday, only to reveal he was talking about Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton switching teams.
“From our perspective we had some clear objectives. One was we had a real gap at centre-back especially after letting Davinson Sanchez go, and getting Radu in early was great and getting Timo in early was also excellent for us. With the absences from injury we’ve had and particularly having Sonny away, and the beauty of getting them in early is they’ve already made a contribution. If you leave it til the last day, it still takes guys time to settle. But they’ve both settled in really well and even in terms of outgoings, we got some good loans. Alejo [Veliz] was developing well with us but great for him to get some game-time in a good league at a good club. Ashley Phillips, Alfie Devine [as well].
“Probably the only disappointing one was yesterday I thought there was a really good opportunity for us but the club just didn’t feel it was the right move for us so disappointed with that... but he ended up at Ferrari so we just have to cop it!
“Look at you all! You were ready to type away. I was going to pause just to let his [the press officer’s] phone blow up, but it was a good one, mate, a good one. You had a flat day so I’m trying to spark you.”
Everton and Tottenham represent two large teams heading in opposite directions at the moment, but Postecoglou made it clear he’s not looking at tomorrow’s match at Goodison Park as an easy three points. Far from it.
“[Goodison Park] is a tough venue. The supporters there really get behind their team. Even though their results have dropped off a bit recently, even when they played us here it was a really tough game. It’s going to be a physical game. We’re going to have to be up for those kind of things. It’s a short turnaround, with the lunchtime kick-off after a Wednesday night game, all those things are potential impediments for us performing but again, going back to my earlier answer, those are the kind of challenges the players have risen to in showing the character and belief. We’ve gone to some pretty tough venues away from home and we’ve performed pretty well. We’re going to have to again because it’s going to be a tough game.”
One player who has shown a marked improvement in performance over the past ten matches or so is Richarlison, who has come back from a groin surgery to fix a persistent issue looking like a new man. Richy has scored seven goals in his last nine league matches, and does a ton of the often overlooked stuff as well — defensive work, holding the ball up, etc. Ange made a point to heap praise on the Spurs striker and noted that he appears to be enjoying his football right now in Son Heung-Min’s absence.
“It’s probably one for Richy to answer more but I think it’s helped that Richy has had a consistent run in the team and any player feels that confidence in himself. The goals are obviously important because that’s everyone’s measure, but I think his general game is improving and that’s the main thing for me. That’s what I’ve seen. The way we play and the kind of player Richy is, I was always confident he would score goals but we need more than that. I think his work rate now defensively, which was really important when we had Sonny up there, hasn’t dropped off with Richy there. He’s working really hard for the team and the Ks (kilometres) he did the other night was right up there. Then his link up and hold up play is improving all the time. See I love that. I love when players still want to improve and do improve rather than say he’s played for his national team and been here quite a while. I can see him developing further and that’s what you want as a manager and coach. For us, he’s becoming a really important player.”
Speaking of Son, his Republic of Korea faces Ange’s beloved Socceroos in the quarterfinals of the Asia Cup today, and while nobody’s a bigger fan of Australia than Ange, he was very magnanimous in what this match means for both him and for his star player.
“It’s kind of a win-win for me. Obviously being Australian I’d love for them to get through then we’d get Sonny back, but part of me would love Sonny to win an Asian Cup. I know what it’d mean to him and his country. They put great stock in that competition and Sonny, for everything he’s done for the game and his nation, as disappointed as I would be if Australia go out, I’d love Sonny to go all the way and don’t mind if he missed a couple more games for us.”
Tottenham kicks off at Everton Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. GMT. The match is televised on USA Network (USA) and TNT Sports 1 (UK).