‘I love the gameplan’: Kulusevski backs fearless Tottenham to be at the top

<span>Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA</span>
Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Dejan Kulusevski believes Tottenham showed they can go toe-to-toe with any team in the world following their eventful and entertaining 3-3 draw with Manchester City on Sunday and has backed the team to “be at the top” once they learn how to be mentally stronger.

Having taken an early lead at the Etihad Stadium via captain Son Heung-min, Spurs twice came from behind to earn a point against the champions, first thanks to a wonderful long-range strike by Giovani Lo Celso and then, on 90 minutes, through a header from Kulusevski. The Swede heavily praised the team afterwards for sticking to the aggressive, attacking style of football that has become the hallmark of the Ange Postecoglou era, insisting the only think lacking from the visitors’ display at the weekend was a maturity that will come with time.

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“I’m not questioning anything. I love exactly his [Postecoglu’s] mentality because that’s how I want to live my life,” said Kulusevski. “Doesn’t matter who you’re playing against or what you’re doing in life, just go. And if it messes up, it messes up. You did it with your heart. You’re not afraid. You’re trying to win the game, not trying to lose the game. I love the gameplan.

“It’s hard, honestly, because they [City] are one of the best teams in the world and everything was not perfect, but we proved we can play against anybody. We just have a grow a little bit mentally. That’s the only thing missing. The football is there. The coach is there. We have everything at Tottenham. We just have to grow a little bit mentally and we’re going to be at the top.”

As Kulusevski conceded, Spurs were “not perfect” against City and were especially lucky not to find themselves more than 2-1 down at half-time on the back of a weak and naive defensive display. They improved after the break but were still incredibly reckless on occasions, no more so than in the build-up to City’s third goal, scored by Jack Grealish, and were lucky not to concede a fourth at the death when Grealish found himself running clear on goal but was forced to stop in his tracks following an inexplicable call by the referee, Simon Hooper, to halt play.

Nonetheless the visitors were undeniably impressive, especially given the absence of key players through injury and suspension, and with some now ready to return the message from Kulusevski is clear – it’s time to start winning again, with Spurs having not done so since a 2-1 triumph at Crystal Palace on 27 October. They next face West Ham at home on Thursday, prior to the visit of Newcastle on Sunday.

“[Cristian] Romero is back next game so I’m happy, he’s going to make us better,” Kulusevski said. “We’re proud of today but we have two home games now and we have to get six points.”

Kulusevski was named man of the match after Sunday’s draw, one that returned Spurs to fifth place and means they are two points outside the top four, and the 23-year-old has generally been impressive this season having endured an injury-hit previous campaign. He himself recognises his form is good and that he is at a level that he needs to maintain.

“Now it’s the real me,” Kulusevski said. “I don’t look back, I just enjoy the moment, I live in the present and I want to play like this every game.”