The 9-pass Angeball move that carved through Arsenal like a knife through Lurpak
Ange Postecoglou knew. The Tottenham players knew. Every Spurs fan on Sunday morning who awoke with knots in their stomach knew too; that Arsenal away would be the acid test of their fast start to the season.
In the days before the north London derby, critics had gone through Tottenham’s early fixtures with a fine tooth comb to diminish their progress under Postecoglou.
Draw at Brentford? Even Everton beat them. Beating Manchester United? Simple as taking sweets from a toddler. Nine points against Bournemouth, Burnley and Sheffield United? Mandatory for any Big Six club.
But Tottenham had the better of Sunday’s 2-2 draw, pinning Arsenal back for extended periods with their pressing and relentless commitment to attack.
Son Heung-min, already in the kind of form that’s consigned last season’s sluggishness to history, scored twice. James Maddison eschewed his Sunday roast to dictate the game from midfield.
But perhaps the biggest difference between Postecoglou’s Spurs and the morose Lilywhites of recent seasons was the willingness of the whole team to adhere to the Australian’s attacking principles.
With the match poised at 2-2, and most neutrals expecting Arsenal to push for a late winner, Spurs carved through their much-vaunted opponents like a knife through Lurpak.
Starting with goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, Spurs knocked the ball around like Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. Maddison even allowed the ball to run through his foot before nicking it beyond Eddie Nketiah’s despairing lunge, just to add some sh*ts and giggles to proceedings.
The ball ebbed and flowed like the River Nile, rendering Arsenal’s press hopeless. Maddison found Dejan Kulusevski with a GPS-accurate ping, giving the Spurs winger the opportunity to play Pedro Porro through with the care and attention of a butler at the Ritz.
Sadly, Porro’s cross was intercepted before Spurs entered Goal of the Season territory. But their point had been made.
“He [Postecoglou] said today that that’s the way he wants to play,” Maddison said. “If we lose playing his way, that’s on him, his responsibility, and it gives you freedom to go and play as well.”
Speaking pitchside for The Review Show on SPURSPLAY, the Spurs boss said: “Credit to the lads, I thought we were outstanding today against a top team, at a difficult venue. We had to work our way into the game, and I thought we showed all elements of it.
“When we had to defend, I thought we defended really well, we played our football and when it didn’t work, we persisted, which was great, all underpinned by a strong work ethic and outstanding character.”
He added: “There were times where we had to be really strong and resilient, I thought guys like Romero, Vicario, Bissouma, they all stood up in those critical moments.
“Then, when we got a foothold in the game, I thought our football was outstanding because, again, you’re playing a top team and our possession, working our way through and then we had the quality in the front third to capitalise.”
Spurs were the happier of the two squabbling rivals at the final whistle, demonstrating a backbone to go with their early-season swagger. There’s no reason to expect a severe dip in form or a reversion to Spursiness.
Postecoglou’s side are a completely different proposition these days. Angeball will take some stopping.
By Michael Lee