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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
David Hytner

Tottenham are still title contenders, says upbeat Ange Postecoglou

Richarlison celebrates scoring against Bournemouth in Spurs' 3-1 win
Richarlison celebrates scoring against Bournemouth in Spurs’ 3-1 win on New Year’s Eve, their second win in two league games. Photograph: Andrew Kearns/CameraSport/Getty Images

Ange Postecoglou believes Tottenham are in the race for the Premier League title and he takes great heart from the success of his signings, which he says has encouraged the hierarchy to back him further in January.

The manager’s call for early business this month has been answered with the additions of the £25m centre-half Radu Dragusin from Genoa and striker Timo Werner, on loan from RB Leipzig, although it is unclear whether either will be up to speed to start at Manchester United on Sunday.

Postecoglou, who is delighted at how the squad’s new faces from last summer have performed – especially Guglielmo Vicario, Micky van de Ven, Destiny Udogie and James Maddison – has guided his team to fifth place, six points behind the leaders, Liverpool.

The Australian can feel momentum building and said that by the definition of the phrase – in other words whether Spurs had a realistic chance of winning the title – his team were in there. “If I say: ‘No,’ you’d turn round to me and say: ‘Come on Ange’,” Postecoglou said. “By definition, we are, aren’t we? So, yes we are. I’ve said all along that until the point where you’re not, why would you discount the possibility?

“We’ve gone through a really tough period [taking one point from five matches from early November to early December] and we’re hanging in there. Our performances for the most part have been pretty consistent. But all that is meaningless if we don’t finish the season stronger than the first half of the season. We certainly feel we can finish stronger.”

It is unusual to see Spurs complete deals quickly in January and Postecoglou said it reflected how well the club were aligned, taking in himself, the chairman, Daniel Levy, the chief football officer, Scott Munn, and the technical director, Johan Lange. “Part of the process is a trust thing,” Postecoglou said. “The club itself probably took a lot of comfort from our summer window, knowing they got their business right there. Going into this window, saying you want to work quickly … there’s a leap of faith there. The first part of the season has helped that and hopefully that keeps accelerating.”

Radu Dragusin (left) in training with Spurs
Radu Dragusin (left) has just signed from Genoa but he is not a certain starter against Manchester United. Photograph: Alex Morton/Tottenham Hotspur FC/Shutterstock

Postecoglou accepted that the physical demands he places on the players have been a factor in the high number of muscular injuries; Ben Davies, Giovani Lo Celso and Dane Scarlett are the latest to have succumbed. The manager’s idea is simply to build a deeper squad that can better share the load. Cristian Romero has returned to training after his hamstring problem.

“It’s part of the game we have – for the guys, it’s a big physical output,” Postecoglou said. “We haven’t been able, because of the circumstances, to rotate the squad too much. Ben Davies is a classic example; playing a lot and we haven’t been able to rotate him out. It’s just a consequence of the way we play and train. At the same time, when we get a more robust and deeper squad we’ll be able to overcome it. How we play and train is why we are where we are.”

Postecoglou insisted he would remain alive to opportunities before the closure of the January window, with the move for Werner being one example of this. “It’s fair to say that if Timo was playing regularly [for Leipzig] and scoring goals, he wouldn’t be here,” Postecoglou said. “We wouldn’t be able to afford him. You’re looking for these opportunities, potentially looking beyond the obvious.”

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