What Micky van de Ven told James Maddison just before he scored and why Vicario jumped on Romero

This was a match that showcased what Ange Postecoglou has already done and how much there is left to do.

Tottenham now need just a single point to secure a fifth-place finish this season and the return of European football for the next campaign and a top four spot currently remains achievable, albeit out of their hands. It is not the doom and gloom that many were predicting when Harry Kane walked out of those doors last August but it is nowhere near yet what Postecoglou expects from any side he manages.

Against Burnley, Spurs provided glimpses of how breath-taking the Australian's football can be, mostly at the start and end of the encounter. One early sweeping move from box to box, with fast, instinctive, intricate passing all the way up the pitch would have brought arguably the best goal of Tottenham's season had James Maddison's shot not deflected up and over the bar at its climax.

On the day, the hosts rained 21 shots on Arijanet Muric's goal with the Swiss-born Kosovo international needing to pull off seven saves. The Burnley defence in front of him had to make 20 clearances and six blocks from shots.

This is Tottenham though so of course the visitors scored first. Twenty five minutes in, sliding tackles from Pape Matar Sarr and Brennan Johnson only served to bounce the ball around the midfield to Sander Berge, then Pedro Porro got caught in two minds while approaching him and instead just let him through.

That allowed the Norwegian all the time in the world to pick out Jacob Brunn Laarsen's run with makeshift left-back Oliver Skipp caught up the pitch. The 23-year-old made a valiant attempt to get back and was a toenail away from getting a block on the Dane's shot but instead it flew past Guglielmo Vicario.

READ MORE: Tottenham player ratings vs Burnley as Van de Ven scores winner with Romero and Maddison on form

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Other than an early header from Vitinho it was all the Spurs goalkeeper had to do during the encounter and the hosts found a goal in return just seven minutes later.

Porro won the ball back in the midfield and interchanged passes with Johnson before burying a rasping shot past Muric.

It was an importantly-timed goal because it prevented the all-too-familiar desperate search for a foothold back in the game of recent encounters.

Spurs were able to dominate possession with 63% of it and probe for openings. In truth with good chances for Dejan Kulusevski, Maddison, Cristian Romero and Johnson among others, the second goal should have come long before it eventually arrived in the 86th minute for Micky van de Ven.

Managers don't always get the credit for their substitutions but all three of Postecoglou's first set of changes worked and two were involved in the winner.

A freshly-shorn Rodrigo Bentancur got the ball moving quickly through the middle to Maddison, who turned and found Van de Ven's run and the defender's touch took him inside. Dane Scarlett ran over the ball and took a Burnley defender with him leaving the space for the Dutchman to run on, shift it on to his left foot and curl it inside the left-hand post.

Even Van de Ven's celebration was so quick nobody could catch him and again it was a demonstration to the team that playing the Postecoglou way will bring goals. The Dutchman, now as a left-back, was playing more centrally than the winger and causing all kinds of chaos.

It was another big goal in front of that huge south stand, the location for so many late dramatic moments this season.

"All season to be honest there have been games like today where we go 1-0 down and the atmosphere is crazy," said Johnson. "Every time the fans can smell it with us that we're going to get back on top and they can drive us through the whole game.

"Today they got us through another game and it was so important to win today. Not just for this lap of appreciation but for the season and the way we want to end it here. So a massive thank you to all the fans."

He added: "Obviously the last four games, we're not sugar coating it, we know they were really poor from us personally. We didn't perform and in a few of them we were really bad. We showed a little bit but not for the full 90 so to come off the back of those four games, we owed it to the fans today. It wasn't really about us.

"Obviously we want to perform well and want to win, but coming into the game today we needed three points, just to build something and go into the last two games, tough games, with some kind of momentum."

Postecoglou told that the scoreline should have been more one-sided when it was pointed out that Muric made seven saves.

"Yeah, he had a hell of a game. We probably should have won the game more comfortably," said the Australian. "It was always going to be a tricky game for us because as much as you try and put it to one side, losing four games in a row, for the players there's always a bit of stress and anxiety.

"Burnley really had to go for it today - they had nothing to lose, I mean obviously they had a lot to lose but with their approach. I thought in the first half we controlled the game really well - I just thought we were a bit anxious in the final third with our decision making.

"But I thought Pedro's goal before half-time was really important and the second half was better, and we were stronger after half-time - we always are. It's just that some recent games have got away from us, but today we were right in it. Pleasing for the players and credit to them for not getting too wound up and just playing our football."

For Spurs, it was a win that came at the start of a week when momentum was needed for the final run-in and for Burnley it cost them their place in the Premier League.

Micky van de Ven celebrates after scoring for Tottenham against Burnley
Micky van de Ven celebrates after scoring for Tottenham against Burnley -Credit:Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Magnificent Micky van de Ven

If there has been one constant in a season of highs and lows for Tottenham it has been Micky van de Ven's performances.

Yes, the Dutchman missed a portion the campaign with that serious hamstring injury but while others have struggled to find their groove again after injuries, the 23-year-old never appeared to have left it.

The centre-back was voted player of the season across the board by the club's supporter groups and his adaptation to the Premier League has been seamless. Those missed 11 Premier League games are likely to be the only reason he is not in the frame for team of the season discussions.

Spurs lost five of those 11 matches in his absence and you can't help but wonder what the season might held had he been in the backline during that mid-term period.

On top of Van de Ven's defensive abilities and that searing pace is the excitement that surrounds a player who is only going to get better. The attacking side of his game is also improving and all three of his goals this season have been pinpoint clinical finishes that a striker would be proud of.

For this latest effort, the Dutchman knew it was coming. He had told Maddison to pick him out the moment he got the ball.

"Even when we're down the fans keep pushing us. Like Brennan said, they smell that we can score so they push us and it's really nice that I can score another goal," he said.

"The crazy thing is that in the game I was walking next to Madders and I said to him 'in five seconds when you get the ball, I'll run deep, just pass it to me'. So when he got the ball, I ran deep and he played it to me and my touch took me straight away from the defenders.

"I saw Dane was making a block and I cut it to my left and I saw the little gap in the corner and I thought to play it with my left into the bottom corner."

Maddison then wrote in an Instagram Story post featuring the young centre-back: "You called it."

There was a genuine pride on display when Van de Ven was told he had won all of the club awards and he agrees that this is only the beginning.

"Very proud. I want to say thank you to all the fans who voted for me and for the support the whole year. Amazing feeling to win the player of the season in my first year and hopefully more to come," he said.

"It's an unbelievable feeling and hopefully next season we do it again and hopefully stronger next year."

As he walked around the pitch for the lap of appreciation, he was pushed by his team-mates to head into the south-west corner for a moment alone with the supporters as they sang his chant. Many could still be heard singing it on their way back to the various train stations long after the final whistle.

When pointed out to Postecoglou the quality of Van de Ven's strike and his ability to play anywhere on the pitch, the 58-year-old said: "Yeah, no doubt, and that's the exciting thing for me. There are a lot of these players - it's Micky's first year in the Premier League, Vicario's, Destiny's (as well). Pape's first full season.

"There's so much growth in us and what we've been through this year both good and bad is great for us. And Micky's been through a lot with injury, and even then he's bounced back so well from that to maintain an elite level of performance so I couldn't be happier for him."

Van de Ven finished the game as one of Postecoglou's inverted full-backs with Radu Dragusin coming in to positive effect at centre-back, making one important late tackle.

Playing the Dutchman out wide brings with it pros and cons. On the plus side, you gain a rapid player down the flank who has the technical ability to use the ball well inside the pitch, as his goal showed.

On the down side, you lose Van de Ven's mopping up pace from the centre of the defence, leaving other slower players to react to those balls over the high line.

"I've played a lot of times at left-back but playing left-back in our system is really different because you're more of a midfielder than a left-back to be honest. So that's the difference," said Van de Ven after the game.

Some fans called for the Dutchman to be used in the role as soon as Destiny Udogie's season was confirmed to be over. Postecoglou explained why Van de Ven's injuries this year have ensured that it hasn't been a serious option thus far.

"Yeah [he's one option there], but at the same time I've been mindful with Micky that he's had a couple of injuries and the demands of playing left-back are a lot different to playing centre-back," said the Spurs boss.

"I just have to be careful - what's more important is what we're trying to build here, and I was reluctant to put him out there for that reason alone. It's been quite a disrupted season and playing full-back as opposed to playing centre-back is a lot different from a physical perspective.

"But yeah I thought for the last bit of the game it made sense, Skippy was only ever going to be able to play for more than about 60 minutes, he hasn't played for ages. And Radu coming on I thought was very good when he came on as well, so it helped us get over the line and Micky's goal was outstanding."

It's an important point that few have mentioned - Van de Ven's hamstrings. The left-back role requires sprinting constantly up and down the flank and across the pitch. At centre-back, those runs are only occasional.

Nobody wants to risk turning the Netherlands international's hamstring woes into a more career-dominating problem. Spurs have had enough of those over the years.

It was a moment of clear logic from Postecoglou that made plenty of sense and showed how managers have more to juggle than most often realise from the outside.

Ange Postecoglou during Tottenham's clash against Burnley
Ange Postecoglou during Tottenham's clash against Burnley -Credit:Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

It's why Postecoglou turned to Oliver Skipp in an unfamiliar left-back role after Emerson Royal's struggles on the wrong side. At the age of 23, like Van de Ven, the young midfielder has had a season to forget with little game time, but it showed the coaching staff's belief in his tactical intelligence that they have worked in recent weeks on training him for the new role.

At Anfield, his introduction in the position was positive. In a full game it was more of a mixed bag. He had some bright moments on the ball and his midfield traits lent themselves to the inverted nature of the role.

He made two tackles, one interception, two clearances and won one aerial duel with 90.9% of his 33 passes reaching their target.

However, being right-footed he was always going to struggle in defending down the flank and his lack of pace compared to someone like Udogie or Van de Ven meant he struggled to chase back from the required position high up the pitch and Burnley looked to target it.

It was a solid effort in a very unfamiliar role, but it is unlikely to be a new long-term position for the young midfielder. This summer brings a tough call with his development. Spurs' lack of club-trained homegrown senior players for Europe will make it difficult for them to let Skipp go but he needs to play football to prevent his career from being stunted.

One other success in the backline was Cristian Romero. The Argentine made a crucial early backward header from almost underneath his own crossbar with Lyle Foster steaming in behind him. So happy was Vicario, who had pushed his initial save up in the air, that the Italian goalkeeper leapt on the Argentine's back in celebration after the ball was cleared.

Romero enjoys his occasional wanders up the pitch to play as a centre forward when Spurs need a goal and he almost teed up Scarlett for a late goal before forcing Muric into a scrambling save with a header.

The Argentine suits Postecoglou's system. He enjoys baiting the press with the ball at his feet before playing a quick ball around the advancing player into the exposed space. The 26-year-old also raises the tempo, the aggression and as the club's World Cup winner and vice-captain, his next step is becoming a leader for the whole team and an organiser of a backline that has conceded too many goals.

Dejan Kulusevski in action for Tottenham against Burnley
Dejan Kulusevski in action for Tottenham against Burnley -Credit:Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

The misfiring attack and recruits needed

At the other end of the pitch Postecoglou was low on options in attack with Richarlison's calf injury in training on Friday, after a weekend in which the Brazilian had provided a goal and an assist at Anfield.

It meant the Australian had to get creative with his changes, making them late, bringing on 20-year-old striker Dane Scarlett and the switch for Van de Ven and introduction of Dragusin with Rodrigo Bentancur replacing Yves Bissouma but forcing play high up the pitch.

"[Richarlison's injury] was unfortunate," said the Tottenham head coach. "I know I did the press conference yesterday, but it was literally the last kick of [training] and I saw him hobble off and I assumed it was nothing serious. Then it didn't get any better later on in the evening and he was sent for a scan on his calf and I still don't know the results of that to be honest, but watching him today he was still hobbling about.

"So that made it difficult for us. Like you said I had to get creative with the set-up, knowing that in the last half hour we would probably be dominant from a physical perspective because we have been pretty consistently.

"So having a set-up that at least gave us a chance to take advantage of the chances we had. Dane came on and worked really hard. I thought Rodri was really good when he came on as well. Radu did well so the subs made an impact."

Before the game kicked off, Richarlison went to the south stand and asked for a big flag with his face on it from the crowd and waved it around for a while. His limp was noticeable.

Brazil boss Dorival Junior said the striker had already ruled himself out of the Copa America the previous night. Postecoglou said the club hadn't even had the scan results yet.

While it may be different this time, it's worth noting that Richarlison was left in floods of tears last season, believing his World Cup hopes were over after a calf injury. Within a few weeks he was back in action and starred at the tournament before a hamstring problem in the quarter-final.

It is the injuries that have ravaged his £60million move to Tottenham in the past two seasons. He has 12 goals and four assists in 31 games this campaign, which shows what he can contribute, but his injuries have lost him the chance to play in 19 matches over his two seasons in N17.

Interest from Saudi Arabia continues in the forward and those injury woes might end up forcing Tottenham's hand if an offer tempting enough arrives.

In that scenario they would have to replace him well for losing the one target man and focal point from the attack currently dramatically affects the unpredictability of Spurs' attacking efforts.

Son has contributed greatly again with 26 direct goal involvements in 33 Premier League games - 17 goals and nine assists - but the Tottenham captain needs service to his feet if he is to flourish in the central role.

Otherwise he ends up drifting out of games or having to try to set up others and he managed five key passes on the day, more than any other player on the pitch. At other times the South Korean wanders around looking for space or comes far too deep to find the ball where he does not have Kane's passing range to use it. At one point on Saturday he came all the way back to the edge of his own box late in the game to try to pick up the ball.

Son Heung-min during Tottenham's clash against Burnley
Son Heung-min during Tottenham's clash against Burnley -Credit:Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Son will continue to be a big part of Tottenham though and Postecoglou confirmed that the club's top scorer this season will remain a key element of his plans going forward.

Dejan Kulusevski had another frustrating match this season when he did some really positive things with the ball, played three key passes, but was also dispossessed five times and gave the ball away on another two occasions. The Swede's pass success rate of 64.7% was by far the worst of the Spurs players by around 20%.

Kulusevski has created plenty of chances this season and he carved out more on Saturday, but with just six goals and three assists to his name this time around, it has not ended up being as productive a term for the 24-year-old in his third campaign in the Premier League.

For Johnson it has been a season of growth at a new club and a new level. There's plenty to like about the Wales international's game and he's a dangerous young player, and when the 22-year-old develops consistency to his game and more composure he will rack up even better numbers than the nine assists and five goals his 33 Premier League games have brought at Tottenham.

On Saturday, he managed four key passes including the assist for Porro's spectacular goal. He tested Muric himself with an early volley and couldn't quite touch a sliding effort inside the right-hand post from Son's low pass in the second half.

Another Johnson effort was one from a tight angle in the first half after intercepting a Muric pass on the edge of the Burnley box. The shot was a decent idea as the goalkeeper was off his line and blocking the pass to Son, but Sarr just inside the box was the better pass if he wanted one.

Elsewhere in the attack, Maddison was far better than in recent midfield displays and merited his return to the line-up. In the second half in particular the England international was excellent and his assist for Van de Ven was exactly what the Dutchman had ordered.

Maddison played three key passes, made one tackle, one interception and won five duels while making 62 passes. The 27-year-old can take a grip on games like this and needs to do it more often next season as he did earlier in this campaign.

Giovani Lo Celso was handed his customary handful of minutes at the end of the game and his lack of game time continues to be an odd one in a side lacking in tempo and creativity in recent weeks.

It feels a little like the situations with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Eric Dier in that Postecoglou perhaps has made his mind up that the 28-year-old Argentine will not be part of the future at the club.

Reports in Spain have suggested Tottenham could offer Lo Celso a small contract extension to the deal he has that runs out in 2025, but it makes little sense for the player after a season in which he has played just 590 minutes across all competitions after being sold on his role under Postecoglou last summer.

Spurs are looking at a number of new attacking recruits next season, including a striker and winger or two. A decision will be made on Timo Werner's loan after the season's end - the German was involved in the lap of appreciation - but Postecoglou's recent comments about him suggest he may be more of a back-up option if top targets cannot be prised away from their clubs.

Postecoglou has constantly pointed to the team's attack as being the area in need of most growth this season and that is likely to be reflected in a new-look set of attacking options next season.

Ange Postecoglou during Spurs' clash against Burnley
Ange Postecoglou during Spurs' clash against Burnley -Credit:Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Postecoglou's first season

As he walked around the pitch to applaud and wave at the fans, Ange Postecoglou received plenty of affection from the crowd but he would have felt slightly embarrassed by it all. For the Greek-born Aussie is used to enjoying these laps of appreciation with trophies to show for his efforts.

This season has not brought any silverware, even if it has built the foundations of a very different Tottenham team to the one that came before it.

The three points gained against Vincent Kompany's side ensured that Spurs have bettered last season's tally, even if it's taken five matches to add to the 60 they had already matched last month.

The team's 71 goals are six more than at this point last season, eight better than the two campaigns before that and a whopping 14 more than the 2019/20 season.

The defence is clearly an issue with the 59 goals conceded the same as last season at this point and a huge 19 more than the campaign before and 18 more than the one before that.

Overall there has been progress with a new style of football and more points and goals despite losing the club's star man on the eve of the season.

It has also been pointed out that Postecoglou has amassed more points than Mikel Arteta and Jurgen Klopp did after their first 36 games in the Premier League. Arteta did of course win the FA Cup in his first season in charge at Arsenal and Klopp reached two finals.

Postecoglou has done more though in the Premier League in his rebuilding year and Tottenham need to ensure they back him to create what comes next. Klopp was handed a new extended deal after his first season's eighth-place finish because Liverpool could see what was happening within the club

Arsenal also finished eighth in Arteta's first season and his title was soon changed from first team head coach to manager in order to reflect the power the club wanted him to have over the changes within.

Postecoglou is on course to finish in the top five in his debut season and Tottenham must similarly back his plans for next season and beyond and his power within the north London outfit.

"It was never going to happen in two transfer windows," said the 58-year-old in an interview with former goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer for Optus Sport in the week. "What you’ve got to remember is, when I came in last year, the team had finished eighth last season but it wasn’t eighth of a team that was on the climb.

"It was eighth for a team that was kind of going in the other direction, because a lot of the players were getting to an age where it was getting time for the next challenge. And then you’ve lost your best player from that as well.

"So you’ve got eighth, decline, you lose your best player and, by the way, we want you to totally change the way we play from this [defensive football] to the other end of the spectrum. So all those kind of factors I knew was never going to get done in two transfer windows, this process of building a squad. Even the starting XI, we’re in the infancy of.

"Now I think we’ve done really well in the transfer windows so far which means we’re probably further ahead than I thought we’d be in terms of the squad. Because when I look at Vicario, Van de Ven, Udogie, Pape Sarr, Brennan Johnson – guys who are kind of in their first year of real Premier League at this club, all 20/21/22, I think [wow]. Apart from Vicario, but he’s still fairly inexperienced for a goalkeeper.

"I think I’ve got the formation there of being further along, but we need to start filling the gaps further up in terms of our starting XI but also more importantly for our squad."

James Maddison looks on
James Maddison was a welcome returnee to Tottenham Hotspur's starting XI in their win over Burnley (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) -Credit:Julian Finney/Getty Images

Postecoglou relishes this part of the process, when things get a bit sticky and people doubt him, some outside the club and some within it. He has spent his life showing people why his way is the best way and when the doubts creep in, he kicks into another gear.

"I think I said in the first meeting 'there will come a point where we hit a real stumbling block this year, we’re gonna hit some forks in the road and we’re gonna fall over and through that time it will reveal how much conviction we have in what we’re doing'," he said.

"It will come. It might come at the start, in the middle, might come at the end and that’ll be a good opportunity for us, not just players, but coaches and the whole club, to see how do we deal with this knowing we’ve gone off in a different direction now.

"How much belief and conviction do we have in this direction now time is the toughest? You don’t manufacture it, but it’s a necessary part of the process. You need to see how people are going to react to difficult times, difficult challenges. It’s not just the players, it’s the coaches, it’s everyone involved in the football club. How’s everyone reacting to four losses? Is people’s demeanour different, are they talking different?

"This will be here again next year, maybe in a different form, maybe it’ll be we’re going to a title, the pressure’s there then. So the pressure is always there, it’s how you deal with it. Times like this are great for me, I’m always alert, but I’m hyperalert now as to how everyone’s going through this."

Postecoglou's squad will change dramatically next season and his coaching staff could also be reshuffled as he continues to tweak how his ways are translated and drilled into the players with a bigger push next time around in mind.

The Australian's second seasons have always brought major steps up across all departments on the pitch.

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 and brought their first J-League title in 14 years.

"I was pretty confident we would be OK," said the Spurs boss this week. "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. 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."

The Tottenham Hotspur that takes to the field next season is likely to be one that is the furthest possible removed from what preceded it in recent years. For a club with so little tangible success to cheer that might just be the best thing possible, and Tottenham Hotspur Women, who have undergone their own transformation under Robert Vilahamn, have the chance to show the men just how that is done on Sunday afternoon at Wembley.

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