Tottenham’s leadership group was pulled apart over the summer, not due to outgoings, but by Ange Postecoglou himself.
Hugo Lloris, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Eric Dier have all lost their place in the starting XI following the Australian’s appointment, while Harry Kane, as we all know, left for Bayern Munich. The former trio would likely have left had suitable offers arrived.
In a fresh start under Ange, Heung-Min Son was named captian. A logical choice by the Spurs boss, with the South Korean one of the most experienced and respected members of the playing squad.
However, Postecoglou intended to keep a leadership group, with the dressing room their domain rather than the manager’s. Any issues were to be ironed out by Son and his two deputies, with the former Celtic boss only stepping in where needs must.
Summer signing James Maddison has quickly established himself as a popular member of the squad among players and fans, and despite his short time at the club, the England international was named one of Son’s two vice captains.
The other was perhaps a bit of a rogue choice. Cristian Romero has failed to live up to expectations following his high-profile arrival from Atalanta in 2021, the Argentine undoubtedly a victim of circumstance in north London owing to managerial upheavel at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Nevertheless, Romero’s attitude would routinely land him in hot water with officials. The 25-year-old was booked eight times in his debut Premier League campaign and nine times last season.
A lack of leader alongside him, coupled with a system that meant Spurs were asked to soak up pressure, didn’t really play to Romero’s strengths. He’d often go gung-ho in his efforts to rob opponents of possession and without anyone to keep him on a tight leash, it’s no surprise that he was routinely reprimanded by referees.
Romero committed more fouls (42) than any other centre-back in the Premier League last season. In 2023/24, he’s committed one, and that was in second half injury time of Spurs’ dramatic 2-1 win over Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon.
The 25-year-old has gone from a bit of a liability in the Spurs backline to a commanding presence alongside Micky van de Ven. Ange truly is a miracle worker.
Crucial has been Postecoglou implementing a forward thinking gameplan. Under previous permanent boss Antonio Conte, the onus was on sitting deep and then breaking forward at speed. Spurs didn’t have the personnel to make this system work, but the Italian stuck to his ways, and it meant the north London side ended last season with a lowly possession average of 49.8 per cent.
This season, that has shot up to 61.3 per cent, albeit from a far smaller sample size. The change in mentality at the club is clear for all to see, and the centre-backs play a key role in dominating opponents.
Romero’s pass success rate of 91.3 per cent ranks eleventh of centre-backs to have made more than three Premier League starts, a metric than teammate Van de Ven ranks joint-third (94.2 per cent) for.
Crucially, Spurs, along with Manchester City, are the only two teams with more than one centre-back in the top 11 players for this stat with the defenders at Postecoglou’s disposal central in getting the ball rolling for the north London side.
As such, Spurs can better dominate opponents, and this means there is less chance of Romero being forced into action, so to speak, to protect his side’s goal.
Romero’s average of 2.6 tackles per 90 matches his return from last season, but attackers are finding it harder to get the better of the 2022 World Cup winner, who has been dribbled past just once across his five outings this season. However, this would also go some way to explaining why the Argentina international has committed so few fouls too.
The rough and ready approach is still there, but with a tad less aggression and better timing, Romero’s ensuring the Spurs goal is rarely tested, and without the need to give away needless free-kicks.
However, both Romero’s composure and lack of fouls will be tested when Spurs make the short trip to the Emirates on Sunday. It’s the sort of game where a hostile atmosphere can negatively impact a player’s performance, in what will be a real acid test to determine both Arsenal’s title credentials and whether Spurs can make a European return.
Yet Romero has proven this season that he has matured as a defender, so much so that has returned a better WhoScored.com rating (7.44) than any other centre-back in the Premier League this season.
The added responsibility has certainly helped Romero and the hope is he can extend this fine start to the campaign rather than revert to type in one of Spurs’ biggest games of 2023/24.
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Source From: Football News, Transfers, Opinion – talkSPORT