Ange Postecoglou makes Tottenham striker decision to raise important Champions League question

Dejan Kulusevski hit a double in Tottenham's 3-0 win at Sheffield United on Sunday afternoon
Dejan Kulusevski hit a double in Tottenham's 3-0 win at Sheffield United on Sunday afternoon -Credit:Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Tottenham will be playing in the Europa League next season after bringing the curtain down on the 2023/24 campaign with a 3-0 win at Sheffield United. Needing just one point to secure fifth spot in the Premier League table and a place in UEFA's second club competition, Spurs never looked back once Dejan Kulusevski had given them a 14th-minute lead.

The Swede proved to be a key figure on the day for Tottenham as his double and a powerful strike from Pedro Porro saw them achieve victory in South Yorkshire. Impressing off the bench against Manchester City last Tuesday, it was no surprise to see Kulusevski come into the XI to take on Sheffield United as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg dropped out of the side.

However, what was a surprise for many was the fact that he lined up as a striker in Ange Postecoglou's front three. With everyone expecting Son Heung-min to play centrally, it was Kulusevski who took on the role as Brennan Johnson started from the right and the Spurs captain operated in his strongest position on the left.

Seeing the ex-Juventus man fill in up front late on in a couple of games this season, Kulusevski played as a striker from the off and produced a fine performance at Bramall Lane. Giving Tottenham a much-needed focal point up top due to his height and power, the 24-year-old caused the Blades a number of problems throughout and he deservedly got his name on the scoresheet twice.

His first was a brilliant finish as he took in Son's pass and shot across Wes Foderingham to find the net via the post. He was very unlucky not to add a second moments later as the Sheffield United shot-stopper, who kept the scoreline down over the course of the 90 minutes after making multiple saves, denied him from close range after he was set free by James Maddison

Continuing to cause some problems for the home defence, Kulusevski was on hand in the 65th minute to score his second of the game and Tottenham's third of the afternoon after combining with Maddison to beat Foderingham from six yards. Spurs' best player on the day, Kulusevski came in for praise from Postecoglou when speaking to in his post-match press conference.

READ MORE: Every word Ange Postecoglou said on Kulusevski, his message to the players and Australia trip

READ MORE: Tottenham player ratings vs Sheffield Utd - Kulusevski superb, Son impressive and Porro bright

"I thought Deki was good," admitted the Australian. "He's worked awfully hard this year without a lot of reward in the front third. We thought playing him through middle today would help us with his mobility and ability to run in behind. He did well.

"He always works hard but it's that sort of final third where we need him to get rewards and he got them today so he did well."

Enduring an up-and-down season for Tottenham, Kulusevski finished the term in the best way possible with his double helping the team clinch fifth spot in the table and the Europa League berth that comes with it. As impressive as he was at Bramall Lane on Sunday, it raised a question as to why Postecoglou had not opted to play him as a striker during the run-in when Tottenham were chasing a Champions League position.

Without Richarlison for seven of the team's final 13 games through injury, Son spent the vast majority of his time in those 13 fixtures playing through the middle rather than on the left. It was a move that quite simply didn't bring out the best in the South Korean at a time when Tottenham needed him to be at the peak of his powers with Champions League qualification on the line.

More often than not cutting a frustrated figure with his opponents making life incredibly difficult for him, the 31-year-old just couldn't offer the focal point the team required up front and they also lost his quality from the left in the process. In the final two months of the 2023/24 season, Son only managed to chip in with two goals and two assists from nine games in total.

Going on what Kulusevski offered in Sunday's win over Sheffield United, Tottenham may well have fared better with the Sweden ace in a central role as he would have given them the presence they so dearly lacked in such a key position. Certainly something for Postecoglou to potentially look at next season, although all will be hoping that Harry Kane's long-term successor is signed in the summer, Kulusevski may get another run in the position on Wednesday when Tottenham take on Newcastle in a post-season friendly in Melbourne, Australia.

Another good showing as a striker in midweek and it may offer Postecoglou a valuable solution heading into his second season in the Tottenham hotseat.

Want breaking and top Tottenham stories sent straight to you? Join our Spurs WhatsApp community by clicking this link. If you're curious you can check out our privacy policy here.

Catch up with this week's Gold & Guest Talk Tottenham by clicking here! In depth Spurs chat on your preferred podcast platform.