Postecoglou's tactical revolution centres around his full-backs as Spurs look to overwhelm Ten Hag's disjointed Man Utd | The Sun

TOTTENHAM are being transformed under new manager Ange Postecoglou, if the first weekend of the Premier League is anything to go by.

Last season, Spurs were well structured but slow in the way they looked to attack.

But now they look to be attacking in a fluid and exciting way – as they showed in their 2-2 draw with Brentford.

Manchester United, on the other hand, struggled to break down a well-organised and effective Wolves side as they scraped a 1-0 win.

The narrative of the game will surround the decision by VAR not to give Wolves a penalty deep into injury time.

But United fans will be slightly uneasy about their side's chances this season having seen their midfield all but disappear for large parts of the game.


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On Saturday, United travel to London to face Spurs. So here are the key tactical battles to expect in the game.

Spurs’ inverted full-backs

Inverted full-backs are one of the new phrases that seem to be everywhere in football.

The truth, though, is this has been around in football for a long, long time.

As coaches want their fast and skilful wingers to get on the ball out wide where they can attack the opposition defender, we have seen a move away from wingers being the ones who come inside.

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The natural next step was for the full-backs to take on that role.

And in Spurs' first match of the season against Brentford we saw both full-backs taking up central positions to support the midfield.

This is not unusual for Postecoglou.

At Celtic, we routinely saw the full-backs acting as creative players in central areas in and around the opposition penalty area.

But it was interesting to see the two Spurs full-backs, Emerson Royal and Destiny Udogie, take to this role so well.

Neither of them were seen as possession-based full-backs, with both seeming to prefer to play as attacking wing-backs.

But that was before Postecoglou came along.

The Aussie coach has moved them into central spaces – a tweak that will be key against Man Utd as they should be able to overload the midfield relatively comfortably – based on the Red Devils' struggles on Monday night.

With Casemiro often left isolated as the deepest-lying midfielder and Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes both trying to play as more advanced 10s, the midfield was a real area of concern for United. 

With Spurs' full-backs free to move into central spaces to support Yves Bissouma, they are then able to move their more attacking players higher up the pitch and stretch the United defence.

And Tottenham's midfield trio will be difficult for United to counter should they persevere with the same midfield shape we saw from them against Wolves.

Spurs without Harry Kane

The departure of striker Harry Kane last week, who completed a move to Bayern Munich, created a huge tactical hole for Spurs.

Not only did they lose their captain and talisman, but their top scorer and most consistent attacking threat.

When they face Man Utd, the transfer window will still be open and some Spurs fans will remain hopeful that Daniel Levy will splash the cash to secure a top-quality striker.

But for now Postecoglou will have to make do with what he has.

This means we are likely to see the club continue with Richarlison as the lone forward.

Richarlison is more than capable of playing as a striker, but his profile is very different to that of Kane.

The Brazilian, 26, is perhaps quicker and more aggressive but his movement and timing are less developed than the England captain, 30.

Against Brentford, who defended effectively in a deep and compact defensive block, we saw Richarlison drop deep or move out wide to get on the ball.

And while he can be effective at times in these positions, it left Spurs without a focal point in attack.

Under the new system, the wingers are expected to stay high and wide in order to stretch the pitch and open space in the centre for players moving forward.

This means Spurs need their striker to stay central to occupy the opposition central defenders and give their creative players a focal point they can play into.

While Kane was a great goalscorer, he was also probably Spurs' greatest creative threat.

But this has already been addressed through the recruitment of James Maddison from Leicester.

Maddison, 26, will have a key role to play against Man Utd.

And if Spurs can find space to get him on the ball in the final third, the movement and aggressive nature of Richarlison could threaten the United defence.

Are United better?

For the first time in several years, Man Utd fans have come into a new season with a genuine sense of optimism.

Recruitment has been sensible through the additions of Andre Onana, Mason Mount and Rasmus Hojlund (Atalanta).

But their first game of the season has left fans with more questions than answers, despite having collected three points.

One of the biggest criticisms United faced last season was their inability to effectively play out from the back.

This fed into the decision to allow long-term keeper David de Gea to leave at the end of his contract, before they replaced him with Onana.

Now United manager Erik ten Hag will be able to build attacks in the manner he wants.

The idea is to play with patience from the back, with Onana and the central defenders looking to tempt the opposition to press high.

This allows United to build into the midfield area where they can then progress the attack.

This did not work against Wolves as they refused to press high and engage.

Instead, Wolves sat back in the midfield and denied United the space they were looking to attack into.

Spurs, however, may well be more accommodating and willing to press forward to engage the initial part of the United build-up.

Against Wolves, United were forced into a more direct style with passes going early to Antony and Alejandro Garnacho in the wide areas.

The problem was the visitors were ready for this.

Whenever one of the wingers received the ball, Wolves were quick to double up and close down any space.

So, against Spurs, we may well still see United look to access their wide players early.

With Spurs sending their full-backs into midfield when they are on the attack, there is likely to be space for United's wide players to exploit if they can play quickly on the counter.

What does this mean?

This season we will see a very different Spurs side – and not only because they are no longer led by Kane.

They will be far more possession-based in their attack and look to dominate the opposition with a higher defensive line.

This clash will be a test to see which side is able to impose their style on the other.

If the Spurs full-backs have to play more traditionally to counter the threat of United in the wide areas, Ten Hag's men will have the advantage.

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If, however, Spurs can hold their nerve, United will struggle to provide regular, quality service to their attacking players.

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