After defeat against Chelsea last Monday, Tottenham Hotspur‘s striking start to the season took another hit as the Ange Postecoglou‘s threadbare side succumbed to Wolverhampton Wanderers pressure at Molineux in a dramatic turnaround.
Tottenham had blitzed into form in the Premier League this season and won eight of their first ten matches, also drawing twice, before this succession of losses demoted them to fourth place, though they sit just two points behind table-topping Manchester City.
The third international break of the term perhaps comes at the perfect time for Spurs, whose manager Postecoglou can now recalibrate and refocus after a testing period.
Destiny Udogie will return to action following suspension, but the likes of impressive summer signings Micky van de Ven and James Maddison are expected to be sidelined until the new year. There’s no shirking away from it – it’s a detrimental blow.
That being said, it does open up a window of opportunity for other midfielders to stake their claim for a starting spot in Postecoglou’s first team.
The players who could replace James Maddison
Against Wolves, Postecoglou opted to tweak the system and remove the creative role somewhat, opting for a midfield trio of Yves Bissouma, Pape Matar Sarr and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
The latter, Hojbjerg, has not been favoured for a starting spot this term and clearly doesn’t offer the same level of creativity as Maddison; he produced an industrious display against Wolves, but he’s not the solution over the winter period.
Coming off the bench and testing Jose Sa’s goal with a fizzing strike was Giovani Lo Celso, however, with the Argentinian now presented with a lifeline after previously falling by the wayside on English shores.
Indeed, Lo Celso ranks among the top 1% of attacking midfielders and wingers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for shot-creating actions, the top 3% for assists and the top 1% for shot-creating actions per 90, as per FBref.
There is past evidence that he can’t quite live up to the rigours of the Premier League, though the same cannot be said for Rodrigo Bentancur, whose return to fitness comes at the perfect time for Postecoglou.
Rodrigo Bentancur’s style of play
The international break is loathed by many supporters, and it does feel somewhat tedious amid the excitement of the domestic scene, but the sojourn helps Spurs pick themselves up and allows Bentancur to continue to rebuild his fitness.
The Uruguayan midfielder joined Tottenham from Juventus for £21.5m in January 2022 and posted five goals and two assists from just 17 Premier League starts last year before disaster struck and he ruptured his ACL back in February.
Described as “technically immense” by broadcaster Adam Smith, Bentancur has earned three substitute appearances for Postecoglou’s side recently and could be in line for a first start of the season when domestic football swings back around.
The £75k-per-week star was incredibly clinical last term, taking only 0.8 shots per game in the Premier League – as per Sofascore – but still boasting an impressive return, also completing 85% of his passes and forging 2.5 tackles per outing.
Postecoglou could find a brilliant blend of offensive vigour and defensive authority in this dynamo, who could fill the void left by a playmaker of Maddison’s ilk and ensure that Tottenham’s centre retains its strength over the coming months of action.