James Maddison doubles Tottenham’s lead against Fulham
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Something is different at Tottenham: check the table, they are top and playing like league leaders as well. Ange Postecoglou’s side returned there after confidently asserting their superiority over Fulham in this comfortable 2-0 win in north London. Tottenham extended their best start to a season since 1960 with a helping hand from the visitors, who were hapless, and Calvin Bassey, who was culpable for both goals and fortunate it wasn’t more.
Spurs, in essence, scored the same goal twice, with Bassey giving away possession with a loose pass into midfield and Micky van de Ven sharply intercepting on the half-way line. Son dispatched the first on 36 minutes after dancing past Bassey and curling into the top corner; then Son set up James Maddison to double their lead shortly after half-time. The finish, again, was ruthless.
Spurs could have been out of sight long before then had Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski been as clinical, but a seventh victory out of nine so far in the Premier League never felt in doubt after Son continued his own excellent start to the campaign. A late winner was not required, following stoppage-time goals against Sheffield United and Liverpool in Tottenham’s last two victories here. Instead, Spurs enjoyed periods of control and flowed forward dangerously. There was, significantly, a sense that Tottenham’s players were enjoying this.
Clearly, that is mirrored in the stands as well: if Postecoglou has arrived and convinced Tottenham they can be something new, they have chosen to be fun and carefree. It is not surprising, therefore, that that spirit has been brought by those who did not play here under Antonio Conte or Nuno Espirito Santo or Jose Mourinho, and who embody the fresh start that Postecoglou has been able to make. The Australian’s four summer signings who started against Fulham, in Maddison, Van de Ven, goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario and Destiny Udogie, were all outstanding again.
If Postecoglou’s presence has lifted Spurs, they are the ones who carry his message onto the pitch. Maddison’s quality is obvious in every touch, as is the idea that he has taken responsibility to drag Tottenham out of the existential crisis they faced here last season. The centre-back Van de Ven has become an unlikely fan favourite, bringing an energy and enthusiasm into every defensive action. Tottenham’s two goals would not have been scored without him and it was an illustration of why the German has become so appealing to the fans here: he wants this, and he’s doing it for you.
Add in the quality that was already here and this Tottenham side has the makings of something exciting: how good this team really is remains to be seen, but another remarkable aspect of the transformation under Postecoglou is how those who appeared beaten and washed out last season have been revived. Son is devastating again, Kulusevski threatening with every touch, his dribble returning to such a fine, gliding motion. Perhaps most extraordinarily of all, Cristian Romero has emerged as the calm head guiding the defence.
Yet In the first half, it was Udogie who shined brightest in spells, a fearless example of what this fresh Tottenham is all about. In his hybrid role from full-back, the 20-year-old is already becoming vital to this attacking, dangerous Spurs, often playing further forward then Maddison when Postecoglou’s side have possession.
Udogie, with his ability to receive the ball with back to goal, absorb pressure, and then shrug it off like a discarded cloak, offered a threat that Fulham struggled to pin down and the visitors breathed a sigh of relief when he was removed as Tottenham went 2-0 up. Udogie went off to a standing ovation. Son turned and beckoned for more.
Meanwhile there is Vicario, who looks as if he won’t concede a goal ever again. Already with the best save percentage in the Premier League before tonight, the Italian has stepped in to give Tottenham a secure and reassuring presence. The goalkeeper who appears built to handle the nervy moments that invariably come with playing for Tottenham, a part that Hugo Lloris, for all his years here, never felt quite fit for.
Because for all that Tottenham were dominant against Fulham and the only team who ever looked capable of winning, there are times where such a script has gone wildly off course. On 12 minutes, Vicario was there with an excellent leap and strong left arm to deny Palhinha’s free header, in what was the visitors first attack, a point that came after a spell of overwhelming Tottenham dominance, and therefore a natural point for them to concede.
Fulham barely threatened again until it was too late. Silva’s side were a mess at the back, the absence of Issa Diop at the back compounded by Bassey’s woefully inaccurate performance. Fulham teased Tottenham into life with their reckless play into midfield: it may have worked in the past, against a passive Spurs, but Van de Ven and the excellent Pape Matar Sarr snapped into challenges and Fulham leaked chances like a sieve.
And so, Postecoglou’s different Spurs gave the Premier League table looking as it did at the start of the weekend: Tottenham are at the top and looking down.
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