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Ange can bench Maddison by starting £110k-p/w Spurs star in new role

Written by on May 2, 2024

Just over one year ago, Tottenham Hotspur failed to qualify for European competition after finishing eighth in the Premier League in 2022/23, Daniel Levy having dismissed Antonio Conte and tacitly resigning himself to the departure of record scorer Harry Kane.

It was a time of strife, a time of suffering and decline, but optimism sprouted from the rubble following Ange Postecoglou’s appointment in June – soon after, James Maddison was signed from Leicester City for £40m on a five-year contract.

In one fell swoop, Tottenham bagged a new creative focal point and restored the midfield gusto that had dissipated after the departures and declines of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. The Athletic’s Charlie Eccleshare remarked that the transfer was “arguably their [Tottenham’s] most significant in years“.

That was last summer. Now, in May 2024, Maddison is suffering the poorest patch of his Lilywhites career, having failed to capture the pre-injury levels that had cemented him as one of the division’s highest-quality playmakers – if he wasn’t already as a Fox.

And it’s for this reason that Postecoglou must consider dropping Maddison from the starting line-up as Tottenham take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this evening, fighting to recover from successive league losses against Newcastle United and Arsenal.

James Maddison’s season in numbers

Maddison is the most inventive and inspiring midfielder in Postecoglou’s first team but after a blistering start to life at the club that saw him earn the Premier League Player of the Month award for August and earned him three goals and five assists from his first 11 fixtures, injury in the reverse match against Chelsea has left him out of sorts.

While he was in staggering form early on, his recent efforts have pulled him away from the peak of his prowess and placed him in more mundane settings, where conversation has now risen to his place in the line-up.

James Maddison PL Stats: 22/23 vs 23/24

Stat

22/23

23/24

Matches played

30

23

Matches started

28

23

Goals

10

4

Assists

9

7

G/A Rate

0.63

0.48

Pass completion

79%

87%

Big chances created

12

10

Key passes per game

2.3

2.4

Dribbles per game

1.5 (54%)

1.2 (46%)

Tackles per game

1.7

1.2

Duels won per game

6.0 (56%)

5.3 (55%)

All stats via Sofascore

The table displayed above highlights a dip in prolificness and a slight decline in his ball-carrying and defensive metrics, though this isn’t necessarily a negative thing, with Leicester embroiled in a relegation battle last term and suffering from a woeful backline.

Maddison is influential through more than merely his passing and probing, offering an inborn tenacity and drive that cannot be taught. Postecoglou has noted: “He’s that creative force for us. He works hard, he wins the ball back, presses.”

But we can’t shirk away from his recent struggles, having been branded with a 3/10 match rating against Arsenal by reporter Alasdair Gold, making just one key pass, failing with each of his three dribbles and winning just two of eight contested duels.


James Maddison

The Three Lions star remains a brilliant player, sadly suffering from aftereffects of the ankle injury that derailed his stunning start to life in London and kept him sidelined for over two wintry months.

But this evening’s clash against Chelsea will be unforgiving, with the injury-hit Blues losing just one of their past 19 fixtures against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

Postecoglou might be wise to shuffle the pack and bench the £170k-per-week midfielder for the first time in the top flight this season.

The question, naturally, then shifts to who should replace Maddison. Giovani Lo Celso? The Argentine offers similar creative qualities but has been used sparingly this season.

Dejan Kulusevski, who flourished against the Gunners, must be moved into the centre against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

Why Ange must unleash Dejan Kulusevski in fresh role

Kulusevski, a bit like Maddison, started the campaign in immovable form and started the first 19 Premier League matches in succession, only being substituted out on three occasions.

Described as the “engine” of Postecoglou’s system by Sky Sports reporter Jamie Weir, the Sweden international has many sterling attributes but has too been guilty of a nosedive in productivity recently, clinching just one goal and one assist across his past 14 outings.

However, the right-sided forward’s energy and commitment makes him a very singular weapon for Postecoglou, outworking opponents and bringing an all-functioning skill set.

Evidencing this dynamic approach: he ranks among the top 20% of attacking midfielders and wingers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for progressive carries, the top 6% for touches in the attacking penalty area and the top 10% for tackles per 90, as per FBref.

Dejan Kulusevski: 23/24 Stats by Position

Position

Apps

Goals

Assists

Right winger

21

4

0

Attacking midfield

4

2

2

Left winger

1

0

0

Right midfield

1

0

1

Stats via Transfermarkt

Kulusevski hit a goal and assist apiece in matches against Manchester City and Nottingham Forest back in December when fielded as a No. 10, with Maddison recuperating from injury.

The £110k-per-week earner might not boast the same standard of ball-playing skills but Kulusevski has created 13 big chances in the Premier League this term and averages 1.9 key passes per game.

Moreover, the 6 foot 1 Kulusevski completed five dribbles, made five tackles, won 13 ground duels and placed two key passes during last weekend’s defeat against Arsenal, trumping Maddison quite considerably in output.

With Timo Werner ruled out for the remainder of the campaign, Heung-min Son may well fall back into his natural left wing position, with Richarlison returning to the starting mix as the focal frontman.

Son has primarily played his football as centre-forward this season but he’s not been brilliant recently, his penalty against Mikel Arteta’s team the only goal scored across the past four games.

Moving back to the flank to diversify his attacking potency might be the way to go for Spurs, with Richarlison proving he can play well this term after bagging nine in eight earlier in 2024.

Indeed, the club skipper’s 17 big chances created this season sit behind only Mohamed Salah and Bruno Fernandes, while he ranks among the top 5% of attacking midfielders and wingers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals, the top 14% for assists per 90 and the top 11% for pass completion, showcasing the multi-faceted tools that can inflict damage on Chelsea.


Heung-min Son

While Kulusevski would have to move over to replace Maddison, Brennan Johnson has been one of Spurs’ most in-form forwards in recent months and was benched last time out, suggesting that his pace and directness could be used to compensate for the loss of Werner.

Clinching victory over Chelsea will be no easy task but should Postecoglou make the bold call to drop his elite playmaker, it might just pay dividends for his side, which will stand a better chance of outfighting the Blues in west London.

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