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Ange Postecoglou has made the post-Harry Kane rebuild appear rather easy, but the next few months will represent the next substantial challenge for Tottenham’s head coach.
The absences of James Maddison and Micky van de Ven are undoubtedly huge blows, after the collateral damage of that chaotic defeat by Chelsea last week, and represent the first serious bumps in the road for the “Big Ange” revolution.
Just when it appeared Postecoglou was going to demonstrate an ability to win ugly, Wolves finally shattered their resilience on Sunday (AEDT) with two goals in added time to spark scenes of wild celebration for a 2-1 win.
There will be far tougher tests ahead for Tottenham, with arguably their best two players of the season so far, Maddison and van de Ven, injured and unlikely to return until the start of next year.
Tottenham were sorely missing creativity without Maddison, while captain Son Heung-Min was curiously quiet, and they had their backs to the wall under lengthy periods of pressure.
They did take an early lead through Brennan Johnson and with almost half the rest of Postecoglou’s team missing, including suspended defenders Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie, it was not the thrilling entertainment of previous Tottenham performances.
Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs have lost two in a row.Credit: Getty Images
Indeed, it was centre-backs Eric Dier and Ben Davies who produced the best individual performances in their first starts under the new manager.
Tottenham’s reconstructed team just could not finish the job and Wolves extended their fine home record with a dramatic late flurry response, sentencing Postecoglou to a second defeat in a week.
This was far removed from the “Ange-ball” we have become accustomed to, and he will use the international break to try and find some solutions.
Postecoglou said: “It’s part of the pain of football when things happen in those circumstances, we ran out of steam in the last few minutes.
“We worked hard up until that point and I cannot question the effort and the commitment.
“I’ve got to temper it with the fact we have had so many changes and we’re not going to get the same, especially when three of your back four are almost starting for the first time.
“The character and commitment was there, don’t dismiss that. There are plenty of positives to take. they will be stronger for it, but it’s a hard one to take.”
It had started so promisingly, and Tottenham took only three minutes to provide a response to the questions on how they would cope.
With Maddison missing, there will be added pressure on Johnson to step up and he produced the clinical finish to a wonderful attacking move involving Dejan Kulusevski and Pedro Porro.
Kulusevski’s inventive flick sent Porro clear in the area and his low cross was converted by Johnson at the near post.
Wolves are unbeaten in their last four matches at Molineux this season and did recover, pressing Tottenham and attempting to expose the high line that has become Postecoglou’s trademark.
Even with the absence of van de Ven, Romero and Udogie, Tottenham remain wedded to a defensive approach that is daring and risky.
Wolves were toothless for lengthy spells and remain desperately short of a penalty box predator, which they will look to address in the January transfer window. They are also missing their best player, with Pedro Neto currently out with a hamstring injury.
Their profligacy continued into the second-half, with Matheus Cunha and Hee Chan Hwang both wasting opportunities, and Tottenham were becoming increasingly fortunate.
Yet the introduction of substitute Pablo Sarabia transformed Wolves, and the Spain international provided a fine equaliser to kick-start the turnaround
Taking Cunha’s pass down brilliantly, Sarabia then crashed a half-volley past Guglielmo Vicario.
Seven minutes into added time, Lemina slid in the winner after a cleverly timed run to send Molineux crazy and continue Gary O’Neil’s quietly impressive start.
“It’s the most proud I’ve been of the group since I’ve coached, for them to go out there and produce that reaction was very pleasing,” he said.
The Telegraph, London
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