Ange Postecoglou makes clear Son statement for Tottenham next season and Champions League claim

Ange Postecoglou has made it clear that Son Heung-min will remain a key part of his plans next season and says that Tottenham are not a Champions League-level team at this moment in time.

The Australian has stated that a big summer of change lies on the horizon as he looks to create a deeper squad that can make a Premier League title push next season along with potential European football. Many names within the current Spurs squad have been linked with the exit door and Postecoglou has admitted that he will need to let good players go in order to shape the club in his image for the seasons ahead.

Tottenham captain Son, who has 17 goals and nine assists from 32 Premier League matches this season, has one year left on his contract with the club holding an option to extend it by a further 12 months. It was put to Postecoglou that the South Korean star might be one he builds his team around next season rather than one of the 'good players' who could be sacrificed.

"Jeez, that’s a huge leap for you, mate. What a bold prediction to make that Sonny is going to be part of our future! Yeah he’s going to be part of our future," said the 58-year-old.

Postecoglou then took umbrage at a question asking whether he was focused on the team finishing in the top four this season or whether he had given up on that scenario and was instead looking to building the foundations for the next campaign.

"That’s a harsh term 'give up'. What does that mean? I come in here at 12 o'clock, have a latte, go home and just let the guys train? I don’t give up on anything," he said. "I'm here fighting tooth and nail every single day for everything I can get for this football club because that’s my responsibility.

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"I would not give up on any cause, even the most lost of causes, because then I’d be abstaining from my responsibilities. I want us to finish the season strong. I want us to try and win three games of football and see where that takes us."

He added: "I never said I didn’t care about finishing top four. What I said was finishing top four does not mean we’re going to be the team I want us to be next year. that’s not what will define us. I don't give up and I'd be surprised if anyone in my position at this level will go in with anything other than 100 per cent commitment to fight for everything because if you don’t, invariably you fail."

There's a theory that Tottenham would be better off next season competing in the Europa League rather than juggling Champions League football on top of improving in the Premier League, with Manchester United and Newcastle United both having struggled with that scenario this term.

"I get that, but it doesn’t mean you don't want to finish as high as possible and get into the best possible competition but that was my point," Postecoglou said when that theory was put to him. "Finishing fourth and getting into the Champions League does not make you a Champions League club, in my opinion. It just gives you an opportunity to be in there. To me, to be a Champions League clubs and to be at that level requires more than finishing fourth in one year.

"Do I believe right now we’re a Champions League club? No we’re not. That’s my belief. We’ve still got work to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t want us to reach Champions League. That’s self-defeating in terms of what I’m trying to create. Should we finish fourth and make Champions League, it isn’t going to change my view of where we’re at and what we need to do in the summer. That’s still real clear in my head."

Postecoglou has been here before throughout his career. In Japan, at Yokohama F Marinos, his first season brought a cup final but also a flirtation with relegation that culminated in one of the club's lowest finishes in their J-League history with a 12th-placed spot. The Australian transformed them in his second campaign, despite working mostly through a translator, and with a surge up the table in the second half of that season they won their first J-League title in 14 years.

Although it was done within a very different environment to the Premier League, it showed the rewards that came with sticking with the Postecoglou way.

“It’s fair to say the scrutiny there wasn't as intense even though we were on the fringes of relegation, even though I was pretty confident we would be OK," said the Spurs boss. "It required a bit of a leap of faith that I was saying 'don’t worry, we’ll be good next year'. It’s not like we were fourth or fifth or sixth, we were flirting with relegation that year.

"I still saw signs in that time, we were the second highest scorers in the league, we conceded a lot of goals that year for sure… but I just thought if we make the right changes in the off-season, I could see the players had bought into it 100 per cent.

"The staff had bought into it, it was just a matter of making the right moves the following year and I thought we’re going to make some major ground. Now, we ended up winning it the following year. Through that time, whether it’s outward scrutiny or you kind of question, OK, and I’m not oblivious to seeing that the results are not great, but I’ve always been good at looking below and seeing is there the stuff there that I need to see for us to continue to grow.

“Particularly at that time I really felt strongly that the following year we would be a force, absolutely. I didn’t know we’d win it, obviously, because to come from where we did to win it was pretty extraordinary. I was confident we would make some major inroads.

"I feel the same way now. The underlying stuff that I look for is there. Do we have gaps? Absolutely. Is it surprising? No. But that’s hard to outwardly explain to people rightly or wrongly who are just looking at the results and saying, well, with Yokohama we finished 15th or 16th, how are you going to win the league the following year?

"I would have seemed like I was even crazier than I do now, but I believe at that time we were in good shape and I believe at this time that we’re in good shape."

On whether that experience in Japan strengthened his belief in his approach, Postecoglou said: "Yeah but the confidence only comes if I see things that are reflective of what I see below the surface. I do, I think there’s a lot of encouragement there for us in terms of where we’re heading as a team. I really believe that.

“But some of that won’t come to the surface until we fill certain gaps. It will stay below the surface and we’re going to have some fluctuations and volatility in our growth. As we continue to fill those gaps, when it does come together, it will come together really quickly. That’s what I believe."

Postecoglou was asked what exactly about the scrutiny he now faces is different in the Premier League to his previous jobs.

"This room [of reporters]… in terms of interest. In Japan or Scotland the press conferences were smaller. You're reflective of the interest. There's so many more platforms, now more than ever because the unofficial platforms are so vocal," he said. "Everyone watches the Premier League. It doesn’t matter where you are. You guys aren't always following the J-League but in Japan they’re following the Premier League. Everyone watches Celtic-Rangers but maybe not the whole of the Scottish Premiership, but everyone in Scotland follows the whole of stuff down here.

"It's the most visible sporting competition in the world I believe, so when I talk about scrutiny I mean there are more eyes on it, therefore more opinion of it, therefore scrutiny around that as a consequence."

Part of that scrutiny is criticism and that has come in recent weeks especially with four defeats on the bounce for the north London club, but it does not bother Postecoglou.

"No, it is what it is. I doesn't change my approach. Supporters, whether it's people who follow the game or who analyse the game, have a right to have a say, and if they feel I have somehow fallen short or am not performing my duties the right way or have made mistakes then they are allowed to say it," he said.

"But I'm also allowed not to pay any attention to it. Not that I don't respect it, I just don't think it is relevant to me. If I do hear of anything that is less than complimentary, whoever is making that opinion doesn't have all the information I have. So what may seem illogical on the outside, to me is very logical.

"Even when people were saying good things about me I wasn't paying attention then either. Japan was four years of bliss for me - I couldn't understand the language and couldn't read the papers, it was a beautiful existence."

The Premier League is so big that often everything is magnified and hysteria is rarely far away from the aftermath of a game of football in the English top flight.

"Yeah but I love that mate," said Postecoglou. "You have got to understand where I come from - I craved this. When I was in Australia, irrespective of what I achieved there it was barely going to raise a ripple. All I wanted was attention - the right sort of attention where everything I did was scrutinised."

When asked what thing has been written about him that made him stop and go 'wow', the Australian smiled as if one came to mind but would not reveal it at this time.

"I don't want to say because when I'm all said and done I'm going to write a book because I've got some cracking stories," he said. "It's just how repetitive some of the things have become in my career and me having to answer the same sort of questions along the way. That cycle doesn't seem to change at any point and it still surprises me that that angle is very much the prevalent one, even though it's been rinse, recycle, repeat a lot for me in my career.

"It's been the same this year. I remember I was asked if the players are allowed to shoot. I had the same question at Brisbane Roar because we kept passing and it was all tiki-taka and all that. 'Do you let your players shoot the ball'. I think I smiled when asked that because I just went back 24 years. Which is fair enough because I get it. For most people it's new but for me it's been an interesting journey mate."

One area where Postecoglou has chopped and changed at Tottenham more than anywhere else on the pitch in recent weeks has been his midfield with a settled trio hard to come by after the first couple of months when Pape Matar Sarr, Yves Bissouma and James Maddison were his go-to selections in a unbeaten side.

So has he had doubts about various midfielders or have others simply forced their way into his thinking?

"A little bit of both I think. I think Biss was outstanding against Liverpool in the last game, back to sort of his level. Before that, I thought he hit a bit of a flat spot," said the Tottenham head coach. "Similarly with Madders. Pape, when he came back from the African Nations, wasn't near his energy levels he was earlier in the year, and part of it was me, I wanted to see Bentancur. Hojbjerg got some opportunities, Gio to a lesser extent.

"I need to find out as much as I can about where we’re at as a squad, but some of it was just reflective of performances and me looking for the right combination for the challenges we had. Definitely, Biss and Pape are now back I think to the levels they were earlier in the year, for sure, and when they’re at their best, it does give us a little bit more of a fluency through that midfield."

When asked whether he knows his best 11, for example if Tottenham were in a cup final with this squad, Postecoglou replied: "Yeah. It would be the one I pick, mate, every time. I’d be very surprised if, maybe there are, but I’ve never gone with the notion of who my best team is.

"You talk about a cup final, it’s usually won by a squad of players, not just a starting 11. So if we were in a cup final, I know who my team I think would win. As I keep saying, I think we’ve got a long way to go. We’re nowhere near the levels we need to be to compete at the levels I want us to compete. So invariably that means there’s going to be a bit of exploration from me over who fits and who doesn't."

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