Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs Travails Show The Need For Celtic Managers To Evolve And Change.

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Spurs are not in a happy place right now. Out of the FA Cup after a horror-show performance against Fulham, and one win and four defeats in their last five league matches. They sit in fifth. That would be impressive except for Aston Villa in fourth; that is what you really call impressive, considering the state they were in when Unai Emery took over from Gerrard.

On top of that, they are not exactly safe in fifth. Both Manchester Utd and Newcastle are within six and seven points of them respectively; probably too far behind to make a difference, but the sense that the wheels have come off the Ange Bus in the last few weeks is very real. Pundits in England have been waiting for the big guy to fail … and sadly, so was I.

But I wasn’t waiting on it with any real enthusiasm. Just a grim sense that his style of football is not well suited to that stage. It is brilliant to watch when it works. But it’s been working too well and for too long, and Ange Postecoglou, who is proud of his record and how it got him here, knows that it doesn’t work indefinitely. He told us that much after he left.

In short, he got out of Celtic whilst the getting out was good. He knew that eventually teams would figure out a counter to his swashbuckling style.

He knew that because football is a game in constant flux and evolution. He knew it in the same way I knew The Mooch’s third rate long ball punt game would easily be figured out, and how I was confident that sooner or later clubs would figure out Clement.

Rodgers initial attempt to play Ange Ball was stifled. But he changed it up, partly by necessity after key players left, but eventually he’d have had to do it anyway. Rodgers has spent much of the season tinkering with the style, and he’s had no option because he’s never had a settled team. But had we persisted with the shape and the style we were using in December we’d not be sitting top of the league right now and his future would be in serious doubt.

This is not me saying that Rodgers is a genius. But his entire career so far has seen him constantly evolving the teams he manages.

His style changes all the time.

He has played various formations during his management reign, and even with what to the layperson look like identical tactical approaches there are innovations and alterations which have made a huge difference. As I said the other day in the Tierney piece, Rodgers is a pragmatist. He changes if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

It is not always exciting. It is usually effective.

Ange Postecoglou is a romantic. It is easy to fall in love with the romantic teams. But he’s also an idealist on the end of the scale where that morphs into zealotry.

It was Neil Kinnock who once memorably said that “the enemy of idealism is zealotry” and he was correct; the idealist believes in the promised land and that we can all get there. When that belief hardens into certainty and that certainty leads to rigid adherence to doctrine at the expense of everything else … that’s zealotry.

And that’s Ange’s style. He is wedded to this way of playing.

His belief in Plan A is so strong he has no Plan B.

The football we played over the two seasons of his tenure here was sufficiently beautiful that I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again.

But I repeat; teams would have figured it out, and once they did, we’ve have had much to be concerned about, because he’s on the record as having said that he will not change that style. This is how he wants his teams to play, period, full-stop. And Spurs fans have enjoyed the ride so far and will continue to … for a while anyway.

We would have enjoyed the ride this season, if it hadn’t been rudely interrupted by a slew of bad results once sides figured out the counter. But in the fullness of time we would have been caught out and we would have to make a serious decision.

Rodgers is not everyone’s cup of tea. But I trust Rodgers in the sense that if he needed to go five at the back in a game that he would. If he needed a midfield diamond that’s what he would play. He knew he had a major decision to make at Dundee and fielding James Forrest at the expense of the pace he wanted to see us utilise was daring and it worked. He has a similar decision to make about how to approach the Hearts game tomorrow.

I loved every second of the Ange Postecoglou thrill-ride and although I think his departure was, in its own way, every bit as sneaky and underhanded and left as bad a taste as that of Rodgers in his first time here, I at least understood why Rodgers did it, because working relationships at the club had completely broken down. Ange never had the slightest intention of staying at Celtic for more than a couple of years, and we were willing to bend the whole club to his will … but he said himself that he had to leave when he was still on top, because it was the only way that he was ever getting the move to the sort of club his whole career had been building up to.

And I never grudged him that. I wished him well. I hoped that he would succeed at Spurs … but I never believed it. As mad as it would be to write the guy off – when he gets his own version of that team in place, we might yet see miracles happen – I do worry that top class EPL bosses have already got him pretty much sussed, and that’s something Spurs fans should be a little bit worried about as this season draws to a close.

Ange’s stock is still high. But maybe it has peaked already, and once it does that … well, it only goes one way from there, doesn’t it?

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  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    “Pundits in England have been waiting for the big guy to fail” –

    Not so sure if they’re that spiteful and full of hatred down there James as what The Scummy Scottish Football Media are up here regarding Ange…

    But Aye – Ya can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be salivating up here about his team’s form slump…

    But only because of his connection with Celtic FC and that he made us world record treble winners !

  • Frank Connelly says:

    especially with Daniel Levy in control. Lets see how long his patience holds on this Managers results

  • Bhoy4life says:

    Has he failed? When did this happen?
    I think Spurs fans would almost have expected to be 5th and a possibility of 4th?
    If he’s gonna fail lets wait till he actually does rather than preempting it, thats for Sevco fans and the biased media.

  • Martin says:

    Absolutely no reason why Ange’s tactics can’t work in the epl with the right mix of players. Unfortunately spurs aren’t wealthy enough to get those players, and I suspect Ange is not yet accustomed to the market he does have access to.

    I want his style to succeed because football is entertainment, and his football was entertaining. I agree Rodgers is more pragmatic, though I think without Chris Davies his in game management has suffered, that’s something we need to watch.

  • Effarr says:

    There were a few second half performances here that were a bit dicey too. When there were rumours (which turned out to be the truth) that he was linked with clubs in England I said that his style would only last until such times as the higher class type of manager in England twigged how to negate his tactics. I admitted to people that I was wrong when he got off to a flying start but seeing the bigger picture, we are seeing a repeat of his second year here. I don`t have a great lot of sympathy for him after declaring that he would be at Celtic until he wasn`t wanted. When he let Juranovic and Gioukomakis (?) go so easily it was to save him from being looked upon as a two-faced git when he did a runner himself. Having said that, he stiil didn`t do too bad in his first year (again).

  • Charlie Green says:

    His system is reason he failed in Europe. I watched as the opposition just papped the ball into where the backs, who were sranded in the midfield, should have been to allow their wingers to attack unchallenged It has taken the English clubs a little longer to work it out.
    It worked in Scotland as most “park the bus” and never tested the system.

  • Joe McQuaid says:

    Based down south I told many Spurs friends that they should strap themselves in and enjoy the football, that they would go to away games and see their team on the front foot going for the win. But the downside was no Plan B and second half of season would be tough as teams figured out his Plan A.
    Ange has not often (ever?) stayed longer than a couple of years at a club – it’s like he knows their is a shelf life and he can say “it was all good when I was there”.
    Loved the two years he gave us though!

  • Joe McQuaid says:

    Sorry – that should be “there” and not “their” – Mr Equi would never forgive me!

  • Jim meechan says:

    Good point James , but don’t forget it wasn’t that long ago that Celtic were producing international managers I.e. Martin o Neil and Gordon Strachan which also should be commended

  • Ade says:

    Good article. I’m with you on most though have you considered Ange continuing in the same style with massive investment… it might still work for another year. Or maybe I’m a romantic…

  • Michael Rooney says:

    You must have missed most of Jan to may23 the football was brain numbing and certainly not swashbuckling.against the dross in the spfl he got away with it with a few exceptions.

  • Brattbakk says:

    It looks like the wheels have come off but I think it’s just the way the fixtures have fallen, they’ve got Liverpool next so the narrative could deepen. Also, I think there’s a few players he doesn’t like there in terms of buying in to the philosophy. I think Ange will improve them in the summer and be top 3 next season.

  • Frozen Celt says:

    Here’s a thought – Ange didn’t grow up watching Celtic. Brendan did grow up watching Celtic. That being said, they both left Celtic and went South for gold and glory. But Brendan came back. Brendan cares about the team, he has cared about Celtic for 40+ years.
    I think Ange is a quality manager and I’m appreciative of what he did for us, but there is a difference in what ultimately motivates these two men.
    Good article James. It’s refreshing to hear an opinion I agree with.

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