Tottenham: No excuses for Ange Postecoglou as Heung-min Son return marks new start

Heung-min Son is back from the Asian Cup and returned to Tottenham yesterday.

Yves Bissouma is out of the African Cup of Nations and free from suspension and a bout of malaria, while Pape Sarr beat him back to London after the tournament.

James Maddison, Rodrigo Bentancur and Micky van de Ven should be nearing full sharpness following injuries, and January signings Timo Werner and Radu Dragusin have had time to bed-in.

For the first time in months, Ange Postecoglou has all his best players available and genuine squad depth for the visit of Brighton.

It is a novel position for the head coach, who has had to make do since the start of winter, his options depleted by injuries, suspensions and international tournaments.

James Maddison is working back to full fitness (AP)
James Maddison is working back to full fitness (AP)

The last time Spurs faced the Seagulls, a 4-2 defeat just after Christmas, Postecoglou played two full-backs in the heart of defence and his bench included three teenagers and three players who have since moved clubs.

Spurs have been slowly recovering players for weeks but the returns of Bissouma and particularly Son potentially mark the start of a new phase of their season.

Postecoglou has occasionally had to scrape together a team of senior players but now he has a wealth of possibilities, and some painful decisions over his XI. Son and Werner will be team-mates for the first time on Saturday, and could flank Richarlison in the front three. Maddison and Giovani Lo Celso, who is also back in training, have never shared a pitch for Spurs but are among the options at No 8.

Sarr has only ever played 32 minutes with both Bentancur and Lo Celso under Postecoglou, while Bentancur has spent less than 90 minutes on the pitch with Son.

Bissouma and Bentancur are available at the same time in a first for Postecoglou’s reign

Maddison has not played with Son (below, after South Korea's exit at the Asian Cup), Sarr or Bissouma since the defeat by Chelsea on November 6, and Van de Ven has never been team-mates with Lo Celso in the Premier League.

Perhaps most excitingly for the manager, Bissouma and Bentancur are available for the first time since he took charge. Back in December, after Bentancur suffered ankle ligament damage on his first start on returning from an ACL injury, Postecoglou said it would be "lovely" to play them together, adding wistfully: "I had all these plans!"

Now Postecoglou can start to enact them, and his selections tomorrow promise to be intriguing.

With competition for places, and no European football or remaining cup competitions, Spurs are well-placed to rediscover some consistency and go up a level in the final 15 League games.

Heung-min Son reacts to the Asian Cup semi-final defeat to Jordon (REUTERS)
Heung-min Son reacts to the Asian Cup semi-final defeat to Jordon (REUTERS)

Postecoglou has talked up his squad's scope for improvement but promised there will be fresh challenges ahead, including the difficulty of keeping all his players happy and motivated.

The manager has said Spurs's injury crisis was "good for the growth of the team", and there is a case it was well-timed, too.

Spurs were never likely to maintain their record-breaking start to the campaign, and losing so many players eased the weight of unrealistic expectations which were building up.

With all their stars back, there are more options for the manager but more pressure, too, and fewer excuses for underperformance.