James Maddison said Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Arsenal was evidence that the club are fast shedding their old “Spursy” tag under Ange Postecoglou. The playmaker was outstanding in the north London derby, setting up two equalisers for Son Heung-min to earn a deserved point, and declared talk of a soft centre is a thing of the past.
“Fans and neutrals talk about Tottenham, they often say ‘soft, weak, bottle it, Spursy, all that rubbish’,” he said, referring to a term deployed by rivals fans about their supposed propensity to flop when success is in sight. “I think the last couple of weeks shows we might be going in a slightly different direction.
“We scored in the 98th and 101st minutes against Sheffield United to win late on when it looked like it was going to be one of them days and today we go behind twice at arguably one of the best teams in the world, we pull it back and we’re still fighting to the end.”
Spurs sit fourth in the Premier League, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, an essentially new side impressing with what Postecoglou called their “character and resilience”. Only Son and Cristian Romero remained from the starting lineup that was outclassed 3-1 in this fixture almost exactly a year ago; Postecoglou hailed the excellence of the South Korean, who he has made captain this season.
“He’s been outstanding as a leader and as a player,” he said. “We have put him in that nine position now and he just works so hard. He is so team-first orientated, it is just incredible. His first thought is what is best for the team and when he puts himself in those positions he has the quality to finish. I thought Madders was outstanding with both assists and Sonny was there to finish them off.”
Postecoglou was less enamoured with the VAR-assisted decision to penalise Romero for handball early in the second half, leading to the penalty from which Bukayo Saka scored Arsenal’s second goal. Romero had illegally blocked a Ben White shot at close quarters to Spurs’ goal. “I couldn’t see but I’ve got no idea about the handball rule, I really don’t,” he said. “It is the one rule in the game I just don’t understand. Unless we start developing armless defenders I don’t know how you are supposed to block things and be in a natural position.”
Arsenal were left frustrated after failing to take full advantage of a dominant opening half-hour. They counted the cost of a glaring miss by Gabriel Jesus, who should have made the score 2-0 after an error by Maddison, and were troubled further when Declan Rice departed with an injury at the interval. Mikel Arteta admitted his fitness was a concern at a time when Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli, Thomas Partey and Jurrien Timber are all sidelined.
“He had some discomfort in his back,” Arteta said. “He was telling us during the first half that he was uncomfortable. When we assessed him at half-time he could not continue so we had to change him. We have to assess him. It’s strange that a player like him asked to come off because he was uncomfortable. Hopefully [he will not be out for long], but let’s see.”
Arteta regretted loose finishing and sloppy defending. “In big games both boxes are so important and you have to put those chances away,” he said. “We didn’t and we also had some errors like the ones we conceded from. Then it becomes difficult to win but the effort, energy and attitude the boys put in was phenomenal.”