Spurs show hard evidence they are the real deal under Ange Postecoglou

This was a breezy, while at times deeply confusing, game of football; but a game that will, above all, have felt like a kind of vindication for Ange Postecoglou.

Tottenham Hotspur really, really shouldn’t have been able to come away from this injury-ravaged trip to the champions of Europe with a point, certainly not after falling behind twice; and even more certainly not after playing in the first half like a team intent on walking the opposition backwards into their own goal.

And yet, by the end there was a strange toxic fervour around the Etihad Stadium as Pep Guardiola performed weird overhead sarcastic applause and the crowd chanted “cheat” at a referee guilty of a poor call to reverse a decision to play on as Jack Grealish chugged towards goal 40 yards out.

Erling Haaland left the pitch in a rage, tresses tumbling down his shoulders, fresh from a finger‑wagging set-to with Giovani Lo Celso who, despite appearing to come up only to Haaland’s waist, seemed entirely unmoved. This will have felt like a kind of victory in itself. Welcome Ange: agent of chaos.

And yes, the points were shared from a 3-3 draw that could, with better Manchester City finishing, have gone the other way quite dramatically. But the performance will stand as the most satisfying moment of Postecoglou’s time as Tottenham manager to date; and as confirmation in spirit, discipline and the boldness of his tactics, that something really is stirring here.

This was a test of two very basic things. Most obviously the outer limits of Tottenham’s squad, on a day when the bench contained two goalkeepers, five players yet to make their league debut and one Richarlison.

More than that it was a test of Postecoglou’s sense of himself, the will to simply keep on keeping on, not to bend to the moment, to still follow the process – the way we want to play, mate – even with the prospect of four successive defeats looming.

Deprived of half their first team, away from home against the most potent footballing entity on earth, how would Tottenham pitch this? Do you still go full philosophy? Do you chase the moon across the sky, die on your feet rather than live on your knees? Actually, yes.

Spurs started with four full‑backs in defence again. At this point the idea of playing an Ange‑issue high line against a team containing Haaland and Jérémy Doku seemed unsustainable. Instead they adapted. Forget the suicidally high line. Welcome to the suicidally deep line.

There was an odd moment early on as Doku picked up the ball and just kept walking forwards, until he finally got bored and smashed the ball on to the crossbar. At times in those early exchanges City seemed to be spending every available second, without breaks or breaths, trying to shoot at the Tottenham goal while 10 grey‑brown shirts stood like men roped together on a mountain.

But it was also entirely logical to play like this. Spurs had one obvious strength here – the speed of their attack against City’s slightly ponderous centre-backs. It took a startling degree of clarity and boldness to commit to this so fully. But Spurs scored from their first attack this way, a blitzkrieg counterattack, albeit helped by the fact Doku simply gave up chasing Son Heung-min as he surged away, feet battering the turf like a boxer pounding the pads, before sliding the ball past Ederson.

Two minutes later Son scored again, this time touching in a City free-kick. At that point Son had touched the ball twice. Once to score for his team. Once for the opposition.

And still strange things kept happening. It was exhausting to watch, every moment bringing some fresh moment of jeopardy, a high-wire one-two, a swarming six‑yard‑box press. There is a general inversion of roles in the Premier League right now. Defenders stroll and prance and create, ball-playing peacocks. Attackers hustle and close down and try to win the ball.

Here this inversion of the order seemed to reach a new peak, a place where day is night, where goalkeepers dribble around centre-forwards, and where the best way to defend against a flying winger is to walk backwards towards your own goalline.

There is danger in this. Phil Foden made the score 2-1 from just outside the six-yard box, easing the ball past a goalkeeper who may as well have been leaping around in the first row of the stand.

But Spurs’ best moments also came from this high-wire rope‑a‑dope. The attacks were direct, high-speed and thrillingly focused. Brennan Johnson, a flyer on the right, had a wonderful game. Son played like a supercharged Harry Kane, scoring one, making one and producing a veering decoy as Lo Celso made it 2-2 via a curling shot that left Ederson grasping drizzle.

City regrouped and went 3-2 up through Jack Grealish after fine work from Haaland. But it was Spurs who became more, not less, focused in the final moments, Dejan Kulusevski heading them level at the death.

A draw felt fair. But it also felt like victory for Postecoglou; hard evidence, amid the chaos, that this thing might just be real.

Source: The Guardian

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