There’s this strange sensation lingering among the Tottenham fanbase. It’s eerie, it’s uncommon, it’s, it’s…optimism?
Spurs supporters have had it pretty rough for the past couple of years. The football on the Lilywhite side of north London has often been drab post-Mauricio Pochettino (although it wasn’t great during the latter stages of his tenure) and Antonio Conte’s initial promise proved to be a cruel false dawn.
The club sunk to such lows in 2022/23 that there will be no European football for new boss Ange Postecoglou to enjoy during his debut season, which could be a blessing in disguise. While the managerial search this summer was pretty haphazard, fans are excited by Ange’s potential and the work in the transfer market thus far has been uncharacteristically efficient and drama-free.
The club’s love affair with James Maddison dates back to the playmaker’s Coventry days, and finally, eight years after he was touted to be a future Lilywhite, he will be strutting his stuff under big Ange in north London.
It’s a deal that has excited supporters more than any other in recent years, and here’s how Spurs could line up with Maddison in the side.
We’ll get a better idea of what system Ange will adopt at Tottenham in pre-season, but he’s deployed a 4-3-3 at his last couple of jobs and he’s got the players to make it work in north London.
It’ll be particularly interesting to see what he does with the full-backs, and that could be an area of concern in terms of profiling, but it’s unlikely he’ll stumble upon such issues in midfield. If a 4-3-3 is retained, Yves Bissouma is the best option for the #6 role while Maddison can occupy one of the #8 roles – more likely on the left.
It’s a demanding box-to-box role that a younger Maddison would’ve struggled with, but the player’s maturation means he has all the makings of an excellent #8 option for the new manager. While discipline and hard-work will be required without the ball, Maddison will get plenty of license to do damage from the half-space when Spurs have possession.
Maddison – Bissouma – Bentancur (4-3-3)
Maddison – Bissouma – Kulusevski (4-3-3)
Maddison – Sarr – Hojbjerg (4-3-3)
The Maddison of yesteryear was a dying breed in terms of his profile. He was a marvellous creator that offered little out of possession.
However, the England international has evolved in recent years into a more rounded playmaker which should allow him to excel in a 4-3-3.
Nevertheless, some might argue that Tottenham’s current personnel are better suited to a 4-2-3-1, especially if Harry Kane departs. While Maddison would ideally be feeding his compatriot from a number ten position, Spurs could utilise Son or Richarlison ahead of the new arrival while the other occupies the left flank.
Maddison could also work in creative harmony with Dejan Kulusevski, who’ll be drifting off the right with Pedro Porro on the overlap (Spurs are going to be a lot of fun, guys).
Son – Maddison – Kulusevski – Kane (4-2-3-1)
Richarlison – Maddison – Kulusevski – Kane (4-2-3-1)
Son – Maddison – Kulusevski – Richarlison (4-2-3-1)
An unlikely possibility but a feasible one, nonetheless.
Maddison has occasionally lined up down the left in his career, but this would only work if Ange changes the demands for his wide players. At Celtic, for example, the manager wanted his wide men to hug the touchline and attack their full-back one-on-one. This, however, would be a complete waste of Maddison’s creative talents.
It could work, though, if the 26-year-old was allowed to roam from his position and occupy a more central position where he can do more damage in and around the opposition’s box. An overlapping full-back (Destiny Udogie) would need to be providing width.
Maddison – Kane – Kulusevski (4-3-3)
Maddison – Son – Kulusevski (4-3-3)
Maddison – Richarlison – Kulusevski (4-3-3)