The anticipation increases with every passing hour as we wait for Tottenham vs. Manchester United on Saturday afternoon, but who will Ange start for his second match in charge?
There’s plenty of discussion about who should start against Erik ten Hag’s side. Spurs showcased some brilliant possession football at Brentford on Sunday but, despite attempting 18 shots, couldn’t muster enough clear-cut scoring chances.
There were some teething problems defensively, with Spurs exposed in the spaces left by the advancing fullbacks.
Considering the wholesale change in formation, philosophy, and mindset, those initial issues are inevitable.
Here’s who Ange should start in Saturday’s pivotal tilt.
Goalkeeper: Guglielmo Vicario
The Italian didn’t have the best debut, struggling with the ball at his feet in the first half and suffering from loose rebound control after the interval. It will take time for the 26-year-old to settle and harness his nerves for the better.
Let’s see how he reacts to his opener at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in a high-profile Premier League encounter.
Right back: Emerson Royal
Emerson Royal enjoyed an excellent opener at Brentford, scoring Tottenham’s second and showing confidence on the ball in the attacking third. He slid into the channels seamlessly, playing accurate and intelligent passes throughout.
Royal was exposed on Brentford’s second, losing his mark just before the free kick was taken, but will learn from that mistake and deserves to retain his spot in the starting team.
Centre-back: Cristian Romero or Davinson Sanchez
Cristian Romero is obviously Spurs’ first choice.
However, we still haven’t received an update regarding his condition after taking a shot to the head in the opening minutes at Brentford. If he has a concussion, no matter how severe, he must not play for at least seven days, according to the Premier League’s concussion protocol.
So that would rule the Argentine out of contention. If he’s diagnosed negative, he will almost certainly play.
Davinson Sanchez is waiting with bated breath, as he will most likely start if Romero cannot. The Colombian is better suited than Ben Davies on the right side of the central defensive partnership. In addition, Sanchez enjoyed a strong showing in the opener.
Spurs will probably remain tight-lipped about Romero’s condition until Friday’s press conference.
Centre-back: Micky van de Ven
Micky van de Ven started without any previous match time after joining from Wolfsburg. And what a player the 22-year-old is. Unfortunately, he deflected Yoane Wissa’s shot past Vicario but was a stable presence otherwise.
van de Ven was solid in possession and showcased his speed on a few occasions. Let’s see how he reacts to United’s much more formidable attack.
Left-back: Destiny Udogie
There’s no questioning whether Destiny Udogie will retain his spot on the left side of defence.
Udogie was brilliant against Brentford. Like Royal, Udogie was exposed on a couple of occasions, once leading to the home side’s penalty. But that blip was more down to the manager’s formation than an Udogie error.
He’ll adapt and forge forward. While Ivan Perisic offers an excellent option, Udogie’s superb performance will keep the Croatian on the bench.
Central midfield, No. 6: Yves Bissouma
Yves Bissouma is a guarantee in Spurs’ defensive midfield. Tottenham’s player of the match against Brentford, Bissouma was omnipresent, both on and off the ball. He was silky smooth in possession and relentless in pursuit the odd time Spurs didn’t have the ball.
Central midfield, No. 8: James Maddison
Tottenham’s new No. 10 lived up to the billing. Crafty with his passing and exquisite in dead-ball situations, Maddison also creates problems with his intelligent and non-stop movement.
He completed 89% of his passes and had 88 touches while delivering 12 crosses, nine more than any teammate. He assisted on both goals in the opener, one of which from a perfectly placed free kick.
Central midfield, No. 8: Giovani Lo Celso
Ange may disagree with my assertions, but Gio should get the nod instead of Oliver Skipp. Nothing against Skipp, but he isn’t a No. 8. While Ange loves to play on the front foot, he might prefer Skipp’s work rate and ability to get around the park against a dangerous United side.
I hope he throws caution to the wind and gives Gio a chance to use his on-the-ball ability to put United on the back foot throughout. But I can understand if he opts for Skipp instead.
Right winger: Dejan Kulusevski, Left winger: Son Heung-min, No. 9: Richarlison
There’s been a lot of chat about changing at least one member of the front three, potentially inserting Pedro Porro into the starting team as one of the advanced wingers. While none of the front three enjoyed strong performances against Brentford, it’s too early to shift things.
Building chemistry, especially at the top end of the pitch, will take time, something Ange knows all too well. He has to give Kulu, Sonny, and Richarlison time to gel as a triumvirate.
If things don’t go well in the first half against United, expect the gaffer to pull the trigger, probably replacing Kulu for Porro.