Ange must boldly bench 5/10 Spurs star who was saved by Johnson

    Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou wakes up this morning with one eye fixed on Aston Villa’s trip to the Etihad Stadium to clash against champions Manchester City in the Premier League.

    Villa are on the edge of top four, one place ahead of Spurs, but the fifth-placed side may yet rue the attacking bluntness that prevented them from securing all three points against West Ham United the day before, on Tuesday evening.

    Whether it’s a point gained or two points lost will be defined later down the line. Manchester United trail by nine points in sixth, albeit with a game in hand. The fifth spot in the Premier League may yet cement a Champions League spot through new UEFA co-efficient rankings, though that means rooting for rivals like Arsenal and the Hammers on the continent.

    It was that man Brennan Johnson who got on the scoresheet to give Spurs a fast start to match his lightning pace, having turned in from close range after good work from loanee Timo Werner to get in behind and pump through a low cross.

    Brennan Johnson’s game vs West Ham in numbers

    Johnson has not always found a starting berth easy to come by during his maiden campaign with the club, but Postecoglou clearly trusts the pacy Wales international and he has been rewarded with some stellar showings on the wing of late.

    Brennan Johnson: Stats vs West Ham



    Minutes played






    Accurate passes

    26/35 (79%)

    Key passes


    Dribble attempts


    Duels won


    Possession lost


    Stats via Sofascore

    Against the Hammers, he was effective, continuing a promising run of form that is fast shaking off the doubters following his £47.5m move to Spurs from Nottingham Forest on transfer deadline day in August.

    Now with four goals and three assists from ten top-flight matches (just five starts) since the new year, the 22-year-old is proving himself a valuable option and did so once again despite a lukewarm Lilywhites performance.

    It left much to be desired heading into the business end of the campaign, with James Maddison one of the chief culprits after yet another indifferent display.

    James Maddison’s performance vs West Ham

    Maddison has now entered a poor patch of form but he has showcased his high-level ability on enough occasions this term to quickly allay any fears that he is falling by the wayside in the final stretch of the season.

    Postecoglou has previously hailed Maddison as one of the club’s biggest “leaders” and this is reflected through both his conduct and quality on the field. Though he has definitely dipped recently and will need to pick himself back up quickly with so much on the line.

    As per Sofascore, the 27-year-old completed 89% of his passes against West Ham, taking 72 touches, succeeding with two of his three attempted dribbles and winning five ground duels, also precisely placing all three of his crosses.

    Despite this, the £170k-per-week phenom created just one key pass all evening, solemnly summing up the struggles his side were faced with at the London Stadium, having also lost the ball on 13 occasions.

    Writing in his post-match player ratings,’s Alasdair Gold branded him with a 5/10 match rating and said: ‘Some nice little turns and touches but another game he has struggled to grab by the scruff of the neck as he was doing earlier in the season.’

    Something needs to change soon if Tottenham are to beat Aston Villa to that fourth and potentially final Champions League qualifying spot, and while it might seem unthinkable to some, Postecoglou might be inclined to drop his elite playmaker.

    Why James Maddison could be dropped

    It’s dangerous territory when a player cultivates an air of invincibility, and that’s not meant by performance on the pitch. Maddison is a wonderful midfielder, he’s been the free-flowing machine behind Postecoglou’s attacking verve.

    In the Premier League this season, the England international has chalked up four goals and seven assists from 20 matches, completing 87% of his passes, creating nine big chances and averaging 2.3 key passes and 5.6 successful duels per game.

    Moreover, he ranks among the top 7% of attacking midfielders and wingers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for assists, the top 9% for passes attempted and the top 1% for shot-creating actions and progressive passes per 90, as per FBref.

    It’s fair to say that there’s no one quite like him down the N17, but that doesn’t make him undroppable.

    James Maddison: Recent PL Player Ratings



    Player Rating

    West Ham (A)

    1-1 draw


    Luton (H)

    2-1 win


    Fulham (A)

    3-0 loss


    Aston Villa (A)

    4-0 win


    Crystal Palace (H)

    3-1 win


    Sourced via

    For example, Giovani Lo Celso has qualities that allow him to succeed in an attacking midfield position, but the best-placed stand-in would be Dejan Kulusevski, who has been out of sorts himself recently but brings energy and athleticism that could charge Tottenham’s attack and sculpt it back into shape.

    Admiring the Sweden international’s distinctive attributes, Sky Sports reporter Jamie Weir said: “Dejan Kulusevski really is a special special player. Works so hard, covers every blade of grass. Hell of an engine on him, and just so much heart.”

    Kulusevski has also created 12 big chances from 28 Premier League matches this term, crisp with an 82% pass success rate and also averaging 2.0 key passes and 4.1 ball recoveries per fixture.

    Dejan Kulusevski celebrates for Tottenham.

    While Kulusevski is principally a wide midfielder, barrelling up and down the right flank to send defenders in a spin and puncture backlines to open up space – space that, usually, allows Maddison to thrive through his playmaking prowess – he has filled in at No. 10 on occasion.

    Maddison was positively electric after completing his £40m transfer from Leicester City last summer, winning the Premier League’s Player of the Month award for August and leading those such as the Times’ Henry Winter to describe him as a “nightmare for defenders.”

    But he’s waned following a several-month-long ankle injury suffered back in November, understandably. Back in his absence, Kulusevski featured centrally, bagging a goal and assist apiece in matches against Manchester City and Nottingham Forest back in December.


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    Ange Postecoglou’s side would make a stunning statement of intent by getting this one over the line.

    He’s not quite the elite creator that his English teammate is but there’s no question that Kulusevski has skills that make him a good fit for life in the centre of the park – again – pushing and prodding into the final third.

    This would also allow fleet-footed flankers Werner and Johnson to wreak chaos, with dynamic striker Heung-min Son bringing it all together, supplemented from behind by Kulusevski. It might just work out.

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