With Tottenham finishing 8th last season and losing Harry Kane in the summer, I think it’s fair to say that many football fans would have expected for Spurs to continue to stagnate for a period of time. What was the mindset within the fan base heading into the current campaign?
Chris Miller: I think there was a lot of optimism after pre-season - given what we were seeing with the system that Posteocglou was implementing, and attractive football we were playing - but also a pragmatism around the scale of the job in hand, particularly in light of Harry Kane leaving. Personally, I was expecting us to battle for the top 7, have a bit of a ‘transition’ season, and to fully implement the new system.
Of course, Ange Postecoglou’s side have certainly proven to be one of the surprise packages this season, sitting 4th in the Premier League table on 26 points after 12 matches – what have you made of Spurs’ season thus far?
CM: To be honest, it’s not just the results and the performances on the pitch that have been transformed. Postecoglou has breathed lived into the club and the fanbase. You can see the connection that the fans have with the players - exemplified by the standing ovation after the Chelsea defeat - and how much the players are enjoying the new style of football. Of course, the speed with which he has got his ideas across on the pitch has been extremely impressive, but I definitely think it’s important to highlight that that is just a small part of the monumental difference he has made.
Son Heung-Min and James Maddison have proven to be a lethal duo this season, but aside from those two, which Spurs player has impressed you the most thus far?
CM: There really hasn’t been a bad performer, so it’s difficult to single out individuals. Guglielmo Vicario has made a completely seamless transition, though, and has been incredible in terms of both shot-stopping but, arguably more importantly, his calmness when the ball is at his feet. Micky van de Ven and Destiny Udogie have made similarly incredible starts. Cuti Romero has been fantastic (but his red card has really cost us). Pedro Porro has been a bit of an unsung hero having adapted quickly to the inverted full-back role. His creativity and passing are going to be critical with James Maddison out.
What have Spurs fans made of the job that Ange Postecoglou has done thus far?
CM: I think everyone’s pretty blown away by how quickly he has put his stamp on the club. Obviously after suffering through low block and counter for a few years, the high-pressing, high intensity, possession-based, creative football is a complete joy. But, as I say, the way he’s changed the atmosphere around the club has been transformative.
Aston Villa took all six points when the two sides met last season – what sort of match are you expecting to see the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday?
CM: I expect Spurs to have around 65% possession and to keep possession tidily, but to potentially struggle to unlock the defence. Villa will counter-attack quickly with balls down the channels and over the top. That will exploit our biggest weakness - centre-back - so it would be a smart approach. I think the outcome will depend on: whether Spurs manage to create chances without Maddison, and whether Davies and Dier can cope with Villa’s attacking speed.
Which eleven players do you think Ange Postecoglou will select?
CM: Vicario; Porro, Die, Davies, Udogie; Sarr, Hojbjerg, Lo Celso; Kulusevski, Son, Johnson.
But it sort of depends on Bentancur’s fitness. He could be pushing for a start too.
With only one point separating Spurs in 4th and Aston Villa in 5th, what is your prediction for the final score?