Heung-Min Son and James Maddison starring for Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham but Dejan Kulusevski is under the radar key man
EPL

Heung-Min Son and James Maddison starring for Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham but Dejan Kulusevski is under the radar key man

Nov 7, 2023

Following Arsenal’s 1-0 loss at Newcastle on Saturday night, Tottenham are the only remaining unbeaten team in the Premier League this season.

Few could have foreseen that being the case come early November. Spurs were expected to take some time to get up to speed under Ange Postecoglou. The departure of Harry Kane further hindered the north London side.

Tottenham are loving life under Postecoglou

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Tottenham are loving life under PostecoglouCredit: Getty

And yet, Spurs have picked up 26 points from their opening 10 games. They’ll look to make it 29 from 32 when Chelsea make the short trip across the capital – live on talkSPORT.

The game is draped in narrative, with Mauricio Pochettino’s return to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium almost four years after his 2019 sacking the main talking point. If anyone would want to spoil the Postecoglou party, it’s Pochettino.

Chelsea by comparison have made a poor start to the season. The Blues occupy a spot in the bottom half of the table despite another summer of hefty investment and have won only three of their opening 10 league games under the Argentine.

Spurs, then, will certainly fancy their chances of putting another three points on the board on home turf. Postecoglou does, after all, does have the division’s best rated player in James Maddison, (7.72) according to WhoScored.com, to call upon.

Meanwhile, only Erling Haaland (11) has scored more goals than Son Heung-Min (8) in the Premier League this season, however it’s one of Spurs’ unheralded attacking stars that could prove influential in Monday’s London derby.

Dejan Kulusevski’s attacking output may be cause for concern to the untrained eye but the Swede’s influence in the final third is crucial.

Kulusevski is one of the hardest working players in the division with the winger ranking highly for distance covered, and his hard work off the ball is part of the reason Spurs’ attack has been so effective.

Only Manchester United (80) have won possession in the attacking third more times than Spurs (74) in the Premier League this season. Only Pape Matar Sarr (11) has done so more times than Kulusevski (10) of all players for the north London outfit.

Kulusevski might not be racking up goal contributions but his input is vital

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Kulusevski might not be racking up goal contributions but his input is vitalCredit: Getty

In pressing defences high up the pitch, Spurs are more likely to benefit from turnovers in possession in a key area with Kulusevski’s work rate at times going unnoticed.

Even on the ball, though, Kulusevski is doing all he can to present the chances for his teammates. While the former Juventus man is yet to register an assist, it is not for want of trying.

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Kulusevski ranks second for key passes from open play (22) in England’s top tier this term behind Mohamed Salah (24) and third for successful final third passes (151) of all Spurs players.

What’s more, only Raheem Sterling (99) has made more touches in the opposition box than the 23-year-old (83) in the division with the Spurs man getting into dangerous positions to help his maintain pressure on backlines.

Kulusevski scored a vital goal against Sheffield United but some of his best work in other areas

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Kulusevski scored a vital goal against Sheffield United but some of his best work in other areasCredit: Getty

In addition, an average of 1.6 successful dribbles per 90 is a solid return for Kulusevski who has the knack for beating a marker with relative ease.

The willingness to get the ball down and take on defenders was particularly notable in the 1-0 win over Luton, where Kulusevski put in a fine shift to ensure 10-man Spurs returned to London with all the spoils.

For the most part Chelsea have been sound defensively this season, particularly on their travels. Only Arsenal (3) have conceded fewer away goals than the Blues (4) this season so Spurs will have their work cut out in order to return to the top of the Premier League on Monday night.

And while Kulusevski has scored just the two league goals this season, one of which was the decisive winner in the late, late 2-1 win over Sheffield United, his fine work on the Spurs frontline cannot be overstated.

Kulusevski is a key cog in this well-oiled Spurs machine. The goals and assists may not reflect the Sweden international’s importance but the underlying numbers are proof of his value to Postecoglou’s side.


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