Micky van de Ven felt the collective flutter when Tottenham diced with creative disaster at the back in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Arsenal. But the centre-half has made it clear that the players see the reward in Ange Postecoglou’s risk-taking style and it will be the only way they play under him.
The derby could have ended differently had Gabriel Jesus made it 2-0 in the 32nd minute. Spurs tried to build possession from the goalkeeper, Guglielmo Vicario, only for Jesus to rob James Maddison on the edge of the area, centrally placed. Jesus shot high – a source of deep regret for Mikel Arteta, who would see it as a turning point.
Spurs had other problems in the opening part of the game against Arsenal’s aggressive press. But they stuck to their guns, playing out from their defensive third, showing bravery and precision on the ball – and they came to enjoy greater control.
Arsenal had to do a lot of running out of possession; they tired and it felt as though the points were there for Spurs to take. The stand-out detail for Postecoglou was how his players had imposed themselves at a stadium where Spurs have tended to struggle.
“You have to do it,” Van de Ven said, when asked about Postecoglou’s edict to pass up through the thirds. “You have some players who don’t really like to play with the ball and I don’t know … they have a big fear or something they are going to lose it.
“But the trainer is telling us: ‘Just keep playing. If you lose the ball it can happen. Just try again. Keep trying, keep trying.’ If we lose three balls in a row, he doesn’t want us to shoot the ball into the stands. We have to just keep playing.
“For me as a centre-back, it is OK to imagine I lose the ball one time and a big chance comes from it and the trainer is screaming from the sides: ‘Again, again, again.’ It gives us some trust to build up again and again. Of course it is risky but when you come out in a nice situation you are always like: ‘Oh yeah’.”
Vicario was asked specifically about the Jesus moment. “It is our way to play football,” he replied. “We have to take risks, to play from the back and to bounce on the third man. We followed the rules of the gaffer. He was quite happy but the most important thing was showing everyone who we are. Just this. I think we deserved more because we played great football.”
Van de Ven and Vicario, signed over the summer, were two of seven Spurs players to make their north London derby debuts. It was a first for Postecoglou, too. The hope is that a positive experience will strengthen the bonds that the manager is creating.
“He is really clear, really straight, we know what he expects from us,” Van de Ven said. “He is bringing us together like a family. He is more like a dad or something. We are like brothers together and we have to do this for each other. We run for each other, we fight for each other. He is building that.
“When I saw the 10 minutes [added for stoppages] I was like: ‘Oh, 10 minutes is long!’ We didn’t have the fear that Arsenal are pushing and pushing. We kept doing what we have to do, 10 more minutes, and maybe we can win the game.”
Son Heung-min, who scored both of Spurs’s goals, said: “We showed how we want to play the whole season. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. We made some mistakes and they had chances but still we want to play in that way. It’s credit to the players that they took risks and want to play with that bravery.
“Obviously you can’t see our training sessions but everyone is working really, really hard to be part of it. This performance wasn’t just random. If you see our training sessions every single day, it is not normal.”
Son again played as the No 9 and he took heart from his burgeoning partnership with Maddison, who set up both of his goals. Maddison has shown his personality since his summer arrival from Leicester, taking over Harry Kane’s No 10 shirt and driving the team. He now has two goals and four assists.
“You can see in every single game he’s the star boy,” Son said. “He always pictures before he receives the ball what he wants to do. He’s very smart, [has] very clever movement and is very unselfish.
“No 10 is an iconic number wherever you go. You had Harry Kane, who is one of the best players in the world, right? But Madders thinks he can go to the same category as him. Taking No 10 is not the easiest job but he loves the pressure, loves the responsibility, which makes a great player [even] more.”
Meanwhile, Spurs have confirmed the signing of the highly rated 16-year-old defender Luka Vuskovic from Hajduk Split. Vuskovic will join the club in 2025 on a deal that runs until 2030.
The Croatia youth international became the youngest player to appear in his country’s top domestic division when he made his debut for Split in February. He has played 11 times for them in all competitions, scoring once.