At Sir Kenneth Branagh’s request, Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou recently spent a night in London’s West End viewing King Lear.
It is difficult to think that the events at Theatreland were any more exciting than the dramatic show he and Chelsea co-staged on a completely crazy night in north London.
This bizarre, contentious 4-1 loss confirmed the worst suspicions of the fatalistic Tottenham supporters, who thought their incredible season-opening performance was too good to be true.
Nobody can claim that Postecoglou or the Spurs are working half-heartedly. After this, no.
This was the first time that Spurs had really gone badly wrong this season, and it went horribly wrong in one of the most incredible Premier League games in recent memory.
Buoyed by Postecoglou’s optimism and positivity, Spurs supporters rolled up the High Road knowing that a win would put them back atop the Premier League.
Rather, Postecoglou was surrounded like rubble by the ruins of poor discipline, red cards, injuries to important players, and a heartbreaking defeat with nine men.
The Australian will now have to face his greatest test in his brief stay in north London after making such an incredible start to his career after joining Spurs from Celtic.
Particularly during a furious first half that lasted for over an hour, the notorious Battle of the Bridge between these two teams in 2016 was brought to mind, and Spurs and Postecoglou are now left counting the costs.
Just within that time, Spurs defender Cristian Romero was sent off and gave up a penalty, four goals were disallowed, and James Maddison and Micky van de Ven both left the game injured.
When Dejan Kulusevski’s deflected shot put Spurs ahead after six minutes, everything seemed to be going so well, but as soon as Romero started acting recklessly again, everything started to go horribly wrong.
Fortunately, the Argentine did not receive a red card for kicking out at Levi Colwill. However, he could not resist retaliating against his international teammate Enzo Fernandez, which allowed Cole Palmer to equalize from the penalty spot.
After then, Spurs’ night quickly took a turn for the worse. First, Van de Ven, one of the best Premier League players of the year following his move from Wolfsburg, fell down holding his hamstring while racing back to stop a Chelsea assault. Then, Maddison left the game after seemingly injuring his ankle.
On the list of players Postecoglou could not afford to lose are Maddison and Van de Ven. The Dutchman appeared to have suffered a nasty injury, and Spurs are hoping Maddison won’t be out for too long.
Similar to Romero, Destiny Udogie was fortunate to avoid a red card for an early lunge on Raheem Sterling, but referee Oliver was forced to send him out after Udogie made a reckless, late dive into another tackle on the same player early in the second half.
This meant that, after a little more than an hour of play, only three of Spurs’ starting outfield players remained on the pitch.
Postecoglou took a chance by betting on keeping the line high even with nine men. If it had survived unscathed, it would have been a miracle. With just fifteen minutes remaining, Sterling and Nicolas Jackson managed to get through, with the striker assisting himself to a hat-trick as Spurs ran out of gas.
If there’s one positive thing Postecoglou can take away from a very awful night, it’s the perseverance of the Spurs, encouraged by a boisterous home audience that recognized their fortitude in trying times.
Though he heroically raced from his goal on multiple occasions to serve as an emergency sweeper, even the heroic keeper Guglielmo Vicario’s resistance was eventually broken.
Spurs were greeted with thunderous cheers as they exited the field, but Postecoglou’s first genuine session of problem solving came from this chastening experience.
He knows that Udogie will miss one game and Romero will serve a three-match ban, which is made more severe by Van van Ven’s injury. He will wait for medical updates on his injured pair.
Spurs’ next games are against Wolverhampton Wanderers away from home, Aston Villa at home, and Manchester City away from Etihad Stadium, the league leaders.
This season, Postecoglou has gained a lot of supporters at Spurs and elsewhere because to his composed demeanor. Even before everything went south, he was warned about potential roadblocks.
It will be necessary for him to adopt the methodical, practical, and consistently upbeat approach that has worked so well for him because encountering a hiccup is one thing, but having a mountain of unforeseen issues is quite another.
No one has ever claimed that managing Spurs is as simple as Postecoglou has made it appear, and this almost dreamlike evening provided convincing evidence.