Premier League’s second matchday will see both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United play their first “marquee” game of the season as Ange Postecoglou’s men face their biggest test yet against Erik ten Hag’s charges.
Tottenham come into the game on the back of an encouraging performance against Brentford which didn’t yield the desired result as it finished 2-2. They showed glimpses of the attacking threat that the Australian manager’s teams are famous for but conceded goals at their end as well.
United, on the other hand, would have disliked everything about their first game except the result. The Red Devils got completely outplayed by an enterprising Wolves side and were it not for Andre Onana and some dogged defending, could have been at the receiving end of an embarrassing scoreline. Instead, a 1-0 win was secured in a game they would like to put behind them quickly.
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London.
When: Saturday, 19th August 2023.
Time: 5.30 PM BST
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistants: Stuart Burt & Dan Cook.
Fourth official: John Brooks.
VAR: Craig Pawson.
Assistant VAR: Simon Long.
Spurs could get a big boost as Cristian Romero, the leader of their defence could be declared fit for this marquee game. The Argentine took a knock to the head against Brentford and was subbed off for concussion reasons against Brentford.
He scored in that one and will be needed against United’s tricky attack.
Forgotten man Tanguy Ndombele is also inching closer to full fitness and his adaptation under Postecoglou could provide the team with an unexpected option as the phrase goes- “just like a new signing”. Bryan Gil and Ryan Sessegnon are long-term absentees while Rodrigo Bentancur won’t return till the middle of September at the very least.
United will be nervously awaiting the verdict on Lisandro Martinez’s fitness after he was subbed off at halftime against Wolves due to an issue with his ankle tendon. The club stressed that they “don’t think it’s a big deal” so his return to the fold will be a massive plus. There are no new injury concerns otherwise, with Rasmus Hojlund, Kobbie Mainoo, Amad, and Tyrell Malacia being the long-term absentees.
Space, space, and more space. That will be the theme of this game. Ange Postecoglou thrives on creating chaos in attack. Spurs will push forward in numbers to create overloads and passing options in the attacking third.
However, this will directly play into United’s hands. United’s pacey forwards would relish the space in behind Tottenham’s advanced defensive line and their CBs will need to be at their top form in 1v1s. Having an attacking philosophy is great, even encouraged, but against United, the Aussie might need to be a little pragmatic to avoid playing into United’s hands.
Wolves gave a refresher on how to play against the current United attack. They sat back and challenged United to break them down either through slick interplay or through holding up the ball to bring others into attack.
Slick interplay was made impossible as there was next to no space between the lines as Wolves were very compact. Holding up the ball is current United attack’s biggest weakness. Marcus Rashford is not comfortable playing with his back to the goal and Antony and Sancho/Garnacho lack the strength to play that way.
Therefore, if Spurs play compact and refuse space in behind, then they’ll blunt United’s biggest strength- pace.
But, what about Spurs’ strength and their ability to hit United? This brings us to the next section-
The rate at which Maddison has gained influence at Tottenham has been startling to see. He was always too good to play in the Championship as he was one of the few players who emerged with credit in Leicester’s relegation last season.
At Spurs, he is enjoying the role of a creator who has plenty of runners around him, as well as numerous passing options to play off of. He assisted both goals on his debut with brilliant passes and played more key passes for Tottenham than any other player.
Postecoglou’s system is a dream for any attacker and for a player as incisive as Maddison, an ascent to world-class can’t be ruled out.
United will need to close him down immediately while avoiding scrambling their positioning in the process. Casemiro was bypassed too easily against Wolves because Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes went forward with abandon, leaving the Brazilian on an island in the middle.
Repeating that mistake against a creator of Maddison’s calibre is writing your own death sentence.
Sometimes the correct answer is indeed the most simple one. The importance of Casemiro has been covered above but games are won by scoring goals, and defeats are avoided by not conceding any.
In the current lineup, there’s no prolific scorer apart from Marcus Rashford, if his last season was any indication. He is not playing in his ideal position right now, as jostling for space with the CBs right at your back isn’t his game. However, as explained above, this game could be ideally suited to his strengths.
Rashford is a momentum player whose finishing skills seem elite when he’s on it, and completely barren when he’s not. There were a couple of chances he snatched at against Wolves but his team will need him to be at his clinical best to sucker-punch Tottenham.
Tottenham predicted starting lineup: Vicario; Emerson, Romero, Van de Ven, Udogie; Skipp, Bissouma; Son, Maddison, Kulusevski; Richarlison.
Man United predicted starting lineup: Onana; Wan-Bissaka, Martinez, Varane, Shaw; Casemiro, Fernandes, Mount; Sancho, Antony, Rashford