Tottenham fans must hold their nerve and trust Ange Postecoglou

Tottenham fans must hold their nerve and trust Ange Postecoglou

Losing at home to your biggest rivals will make any fanbase jittery, and murmurings of unease about Ange Postecoglou's tactics have increased among Tottenham supporters since Sunday's defeat to Arsenal.

Postecoglou remains hugely popular among match-going fans, who sang his name throughout the derby, but his high-risk, attacking football appears to be creating a divide between the true believers (evAngelists) and the sceptics (Angenostics) -- at least on social media.

In a nutshell, the evangelists 'trust the process' and are convinced Postecoglou is in the early stages of an exciting project; but the Angenostics are not sure his brand of football can ever work in the Premier League and want the Australian to occasionally to be more pragmatic and adaptable.

A version of the debate is also playing out in the media, with pundits increasingly questioning Tottenham's style of play.

"It will have to change next season. You can’t keep on playing this gung-ho football," said Paul Merson, the former Arsenal forward, after the derby.

Even the great Pep Guardiola had to battle through doubts in the Premier League (AFP via Getty Images)
Even the great Pep Guardiola had to battle through doubts in the Premier League (AFP via Getty Images)

It was entirely predictable that Postecoglou would hit a rocky patch of results and face calls to change his tactics, because the same thing has happened to every progressive manager who has tried to transform the style of a top club in the Premier League, from Arsenal's Mikel Arteta to Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp.

There were even doubts that Pep Guardiola, who had already won 21 trophies when he joined Manchester City in 2016, could cut the mustard in England, which goes to show that no-one, whatever their achievements, is considered above English exceptionalism.

Like Postecoglou this season, Guardiola was asked by reporters if he would adapt his approach ("There will be no change," he said in October 2016) while pundits including Gary Neville doubted if City could win the League without being more physical.

Former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson predicted Guardiola would never be able to "replicate what he did at Barcelona" (i.e. win multiple trophies) because "English football is not easy".

Scepticism of Postecoglou is more understandable - he does not have Guardiola's record, nor are Spurs funded by a foreign state - but it is also loaded with snobbery, as if his principles, which are in tune with many other leading coaches, can only possibly work against teams from Scotland or Japan.

It would be enormously counter-productive for Postecoglou to start adapting his approach

He has repeatedly faced patronising accusations of being "naive" - an odd thing to say about a 58-year-old, who worked his way up from a footballing backwater to the top of the English game - and "stubborn" for having the audacity to stick to his philosophy.

Results have been patchy and occasionally awful since the turn of the year, but it would be enormously counter-productive for Postecoglou to start adapting his approach and, for example, try to counter-punch against Chelsea tomorrow.

His players are still adjusting to his demands and, when they have mastered Plan A and Postecoglou has built a squad in his image over a series of transfer windows, Spurs can start to be more nuanced in their tactics.

Rebuilds are typically lengthy and hard, and Arteta's Arsenal, who finished eighth in the Spaniard's first two seasons in charge, are a compelling example of how long it can take to build a top team.

If some Spurs fans are a little impatient and lacking the appetite for a rebuild, it is understandable.

Former manager Mauricio Pochettino's project was exhilarating but emotionally-draining for supporters and, at the end of five-and-a-half years, Spurs had nothing tangible to show for the Argentine's work.

The club should have appointed another project coach when Pochettino was sacked in November 2019 but instead they fritted away four-and-a-half years with supposedly 'win-now' managers, leaving a fanbase which is jaded with the ownership and desperate for something - anything! - in the way of silverware.

Postecoglou has sensed this deep need in fans, explaining that he will not target a quick fix and wants to build for consistent, long-term success.

He has never preached patience, though, and said he expects to be challenging for the title next season.

The north London derby was painful for Spurs and their week could conceivably get much worse, with visits to Pochettino's Chelsea tomorrow and Liverpool on Sunday.

Before the end of the season, they play City too, leaving ample opportunity for more fodder for the sceptics.

Rome was not built in a day, however, and nor was Arteta's Arsenal or even Guardiola's all-conquering Man City.

If Spurs are still wide open and making the same mistakes in six months, the Angenostics will have a point. For now, though, they should hold their nerve.

Spurs have already made enormous progress under Postecoglou and will exceed most pre-season expectations even if their campaign peters out.

The big picture is a club moving in the right direction and there is reason to think Spurs will keep improving as Postecoglou continues to build.