This is how the UK press reacted to Tottenham’s 4-1 defeat at home to Chelsea and the Ange Postecoglou tactic that has been labelled ‘footballing suicide’.
Ange Postecoglou’s historic unbeaten run in the Premier League finally came to an end on Tuesday morning AEDT as his Tottenham side went down 4-1 at home to Chelsea in what will likely go down as the craziest match of the season.
A hat-trick from Nicolas Jackson proved decisive, but it was red cards to Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie, injuries to Micky van de Ven and James Maddison, plus five disallowed goals that produced a level of chaos that will live long in the memory.
It looks likely to be an evening that will have longer-term impacts for Spurs, but in the here and now, the tactics employed by Postecoglou are the biggest talking point.
Even after going down to nine men, the A-Leagues legend continued to employ a high defensive line, refusing to compromise the aggressive attacking philosophy that had seen him become the first manager in Premier League history to go unbeaten in their opening 10 matches in the competition.
Speaking at half-time on Premier League Productions’ coverage, before Udogie was dismissed, former Spurs and Chelsea boss Glenn Hoddle suggested:
“If Tottenham keep playing that high, near the halfway line, then I think its footballing suicide with 10 men.
“You can’t get pressure on the ball and they’ll get picked off. They’ve got to play a little bit deeper. They’ve done it all season. They had the defenders in there that they’ve had it works, but it seems to me they haven’t changed their tactics. They’ve got to change.”
Indeed, that is ultimately what played out, with Jackson striking three times in the space of 22 second-half minutes to seal three points for Chelsea, capitalising on what Sky Sports labelled ‘the wildest first half in Premier League history’.
Asked why he continued with his high line despite being two players down, Postecoglou explained:
“It is just who we are mate, it is who we are and who we will be for as long as I am here. If we go down to five men, we will have a go.”
At full-time, Hoddle added: “I don’t understand it. That was too easy for Chelsea to play against. Playing with nine is hard, sure, but playing with a high line like that where you can’t put pressure on them, Chelsea have pace about them, it played into their hands.
“I could not believe what I saw there…This is so naive. I don’t get it.”
Chelsea legend Joe Cole added: “It was crazy to play that way.
“If we got 20 of the world’s top coaches in a room and asked for a thought process when you’re down to nine men, you’re still in the game, give me tactics of how to play it. None of them would’ve done what Ange has done.
“We’ve praised Ange and rightly so, he’s been amazing, but tonight I think he got it wrong.”
Incredibly, the bedlam that unfolded at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium basically relegated Mauricio Pochettino’s return to the club he led to a Champions League final to a mere footnote.
Indeed, once again, this was a match that left everyone talking about Postecoglou – and his football.
Even Pochettino himself was asked about the Aussie’s high line in his post-match media duties: “Look, when you are on the top of the table you can try everything,” he responded.
“When the confidence is there you try it. If we try something like this then in every movement you concede. We are maybe in a different position and with space in behind we can maybe score more goals.”
In the cold light of day, we may look back on this moment as one that potentially ended any potential chance of an unlikely Spurs challenge for the Premier League title.
They still sit second on the ladder after 11 matches, but these injuries and suspensions will provide a colossal test of their depth.
“Postecoglou gambled on continuing with the high line and goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario hero acting as an emergency sweeper on several occasions, but just as Chelsea started to look frustrated, Spurs were broken and Jackson cashed in with his hat-trick,” Phil McNulty wrote for the BBC.
“Aside from the short-term pain of this defeat, Spurs now face long-term consequences from the chaos, not just with suspensions for Romero and Udogie but those injuries to Van de Ven and Maddison.
“Spurs supporters gave their players a rousing reception for their efforts at the final whistle but this was a painful night which could be very costly in the long run.”
Writing for Football365, Will Ford mused: “While we would like to thank Postecoglou for the gung-ho bedlam, and he may argue that it worked most of the time and would have been considered tactical genius had either of Rodrigo Bentancur or Son’s late chances to level gone in, it was ridiculous.
“…It’s probably the end of their title challenge though. The result itself isn’t too damaging – they’re only a point behind Manchester City. And the performance won’t be either – they showed grit and determination along with the insanity. But the injuries to Van de Ven and Maddison, as well as the suspension for Romero, will be costly, with their replacements significant downgrades.”
Those who have followed Postecoglou’s career closely prior to his arrival in the Premier League will be unsurprised to see him stick to his principles in a moment like this, nor will anyone be surprised by the bewilderment of the English establishment at his refusal to compromise his style. As he says, this is what he does, and how he had Tottenham fans mesmerised by their opening 10-game start to the season.
Whatever happens from here, you just know it’s going to be entertaining.
Tottenham’s next match is against Wolves in the Premier League this Saturday night AEDT.