Tottenham improvement under Postecoglou faces acid test at Arsenal

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In the space of a few short weeks, Ange Postecoglou has banished the gloom that had descended over Tottenham Hotspur, ushering in a vibrant playing style in keeping with the club’s ethos.

Four wins and a draw from his first five Premier League games represent the team’s best start to a top-flight season in 57 years, but on Sunday they face the acid test.

Opponents Arsenal, who are also on 13 points and buoyant after a triumphant return to the Champions League on Wednesday, will be eager to underline that the balance of power between the two local rivals has once again tilted in their favour.

North London derbies, wherever the teams are placed in the table, are always eagerly anticipated. But this one has the added subplot of a rejuvenated Spurs trying to prove that their fine start is not just a flash in the pan.

While a home victory over struggling Manchester United was impressive, Tottenham’s fixtures have been relatively kind, with their other wins coming against Bournemouth plus promoted Burnley and Sheffield United.

Those making predictions of Tottenham’s rebirth under 58-year-old Australian and former Celtic coach Postecoglou might want to reserve judgment until after Sunday.

Spurs have not won in the league at The Emirates for 13 years, losing five of the last six and conceding 16 goals.

Their record at home against their arch-rivals is far more impressive, although Arsenal’s 2-0 win in January confirmed the direction in which the two clubs were travelling.

Arsenal  was in the thick of a title race with Manchester City, which they ultimately lost, while a shapeless Tottenham were in the final throws of an increasingly toxic chapter under Italian Antonio Conte.

Spurs ended up eighth, 24 points behind runners-up Arsenal – the first time since 2016 that they had finished below them.


When Arsenal spent the close season signing the likes of England midfielder Declan Rice and Tottenham sold talisman Harry Kane, the record scorer for club and country, to Bayern Munich, it appeared to signal a new era of Gunners domination.

It still could, but Spurs fans at least have something to believe in again with a coherent team playing the kind of fluent, attacking football that had become a fading memory under the tenures of Jose Mourinho and then Conte.

The signing of Leicester City’s James Maddison has softened the blow of losing Kane, and the England playmaker has struck up an immediate rapport with new captain Son Heung-min.

Newly-signed goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario has added a sense of calm to Tottenham’s rearguard, while Yves Bissouma, a player overlooked by Conte, has been a revelation in midfield.

Arsenal, however, have started the season in fine style, and Wednesday’s 4-0 hammering of PSV Eindhoven sends them into the derby on cloud nine. “I now have 24 players desperate to play on Sunday,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said.

The leaders of Manchester City have the chance to open a five-point lead on Saturday when they host Nottingham Forest.

City are the only team with a 100% record after five games, although manager Pep Guardiola may have to juggle his resources with several players missing through injury.

Their latest victim is Bernardo Silva, who hobbled off in the midweek victory over Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League.

Liverpool, who have 13 points along with Tottenham and Arsenal, host West Ham United (10) on Sunday.

Manchester United will seek to avoid a third successive league defeat when they travel to Burnley for Saturday’s late game after bottom club Luton Town seek to get their first point on the board when they host Wolverhampton Wanderers.