Ange Postecoglou: Tottenham are in Premier League title race

Ange Postecoglou waves after Tottenham's win over Nottingham Forest
Ange Postecoglou's professional and personal qualities have impressed Daniel Levy - Getty Images/Michael Regan

Ange Postecoglou has bullishly insisted that Tottenham are in the Premier League title race in the build-up to his team’s trip to Manchester United.

Telegraph Sport understands Postecoglou’s view is shared by other significant figures within Spurs, who have made the fastest start to the January transfer window by signing forward Timo Werner and defender Radu Dragusin in time for the United game.

While United need to beat fifth-placed Spurs to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, Postecoglou has set his team’s sights much higher.

Tottenham are just a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal and six behind leaders Liverpool, who both have the weekend off.

Asked by Telegraph Sport if he thinks Tottenham are in the title race, head coach Postecoglou replied: “Well, define what the title race is.”

When it was put to Postecoglou that being in the title race means having a realistic chance of finishing the season at the top of the table, Postecoglou added: “So by that definition if I say ‘no’ you’d turn round to me and say: ‘Come on Ange.’ By definition, we are aren’t we? So, yes we are [in the title race] and I’ve said all along that until the point where you’re not, why would you discount the possibility?

“We’ve gone through a really tough period and we’re hanging in there. We had four games when results went against us, but we’ve clawed our way back. We’re still in there. Our performances for the most part have been pretty consistent. But all that is meaningless if we don’t finish the season stronger than the first half of the season and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Postecoglou’s Tottenham revolution is built on trust

For Postecoglou, the Tottenham turnaround boils down to trust – the belief the club has in him to get things right and take responsibility, and his faith in those above him to deliver.

Postecoglou earned the trust of chairman Daniel Levy over the first half of the season, in which Spurs did not just cope with the departure of Harry Kane but made themselves an unlikely Premier League title contender despite the absence of key players.

That backing has been repaid this month, as Levy has broken from tradition by allowing Tottenham to move fast in the January transfer window to sign Werner and Dragusin.

Telegraph Sport understands that Levy has told associates that, for the first time since Mauricio Pochettino, he believes he has a coach with the right professional and personal qualities to succeed at Tottenham.

Radu Dragusin playing for Genoa before his move to Tottenham
The arrival of Radu Dragusin offers Spurs greater defensive depth - Getty Images/Simone Arveda

Levy will be wary of Postecoglou’s Premier League title talk, having seen Tottenham earn accusations of being football’s great bottlers, but the Australian is unmoved by reputations or outside noise.

It is why he does not worry about Werner’s struggles at Chelsea or the fact he has not been a regular starter for RB Leipzig this season. Postecoglou sees something he likes in the German and is more interested in how good he could be, rather than what might go wrong.

“Leipzig play a little bit differently now and somebody like Timo, the system they play doesn’t necessarily suit him,” said Postecoglou. “And he does have some competition.

“If Timo was playing regularly and scoring goals, he wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be able to afford him. It’s as simple as that.

“You’re looking for these opportunities and potentially looking beyond the obvious to say: ‘There’s an opportunity here.’ When Johan Lange [Tottenham’s technical director] presented it to me, I was really excited by it because I thought, ‘here’s an opportunity that normally wouldn’t come across our desk at this point in time where we are as a club’.

“I could see some real possibilities for him playing in our system that maybe at Leipzig, where they’ve changed the way they play, that maybe the opportunities wouldn’t be as plentiful for him there.”

Timo Werner on the bench
Timo Werner has not been starting at RB Leipzig but if he had been he would not have been available - Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

It is unlikely that Werner and Dragusin would have been signed so quickly if Postecoglou had not demonstrated an ability to quickly integrate new signings, following the summer arrivals of Micky van de Ven, Brennan Johnson and Guglielmo Vicario.

It is no coincidence that Levy displayed a reticence to quickly dive into last January’s transfer market after signings from the previous summer, such as Richarlison and Yves Bissouma, had spent considerable time on the substitutes’ bench.

And Levy does not need to worry that the finger of blame will be pointed at him if Werner or Dragusin do not work out after Postecoglou immediately declared he will take responsibility for the success or otherwise of both players.

“I think it’s a matter of faith and trust to say ‘OK’ because every time you bring a player in or make a transfer, there’s an investment there,” said Postecoglou. “It’s not limitless. It doesn’t matter how big the club is. Most clubs feel more secure doing it if they have faith and trust in those decisions and these are my decisions, I take responsibility for the transfers.

“So, I think that’s where we’ve been able to move quickly because everyone has been really aligned, everyone in the club to what our objectives were and there didn’t need to be many discussions around who the player was or too many discussions around whether we need to look at other options.

“It was: ‘OK, this is what we want, let’s go and try and make it happen.’ If it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen and I think that’s what’s helped us move fairly quickly.

“With the conditions we’ve overcome, with the conditions we’ve made, we certainly feel we can finish the season stronger than we started.

“We have scratched and clawed our way into a decent position in the league, we’re into the next round of the FA Cup, those possibilities are always there and we certainly want to tackle them as robustly as possible without any fear or fear of not achieving anything.

“We’ve done it from day one, we’ve had a vision of the sort of football we want to play and some parts are really, really good and have surprised me with the progress and other parts we’re still in the early stages of development. We’ve got a platform here to kick on and try on from here.”

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