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The reckoning starts here for Ange Postecoglou – next six games are crucial for the Aussie as he attempts to steer Tottenham towards Champions League qualification in his maiden campaign at the club

No team in English professional football have played fewer games than Tottenham this season and with only a dozen Premier League outings in nearly four months, the going has been particularly tedious since the turn of the year.

Now it all ends with a rush of six games in three weeks, starting with Sunday’s derby against Arsenal, and something of a reckoning to determine how Ange Postecoglou’s first year goes down in history.

No trophies. Nothing new there. More flair, big tick from the faithful. But can they qualify for the Champions League? Will they fizzle into the Europa League? Or worse? And just how much satisfaction can they derive if they manage to sabotage Arsenal’s title bid?

That certainly isn’t Postecoglou’s style. ‘I want to win and I understand the importance of winning against your traditional rival,’ said the Spurs boss. ‘I’ve come down from Glasgow, I’ve a fair idea about what derbies mean to supporters but I never believe your motivation should revolve around the demise of somebody else.

‘Your motivation should be about yourself. I want to win because I want us to achieve something. I want us to progress. I want us to be in a position fighting for the title. That’s what drives me not the demise.

Tottenham have played the fewest games of any team in the top four leagues of English football this season

Tottenham have played the fewest games of any team in the top four leagues of English football this season

How Ange Postecoglou's maiden campaign at the club will be judged will be determined in the next three weeks

How Ange Postecoglou’s maiden campaign at the club will be judged will be determined in the next three weeks

‘If that’s your kind of measure, always peering over the back fence to see what your neighbour’s building, you could both have the worst houses in the street.’

Tottenham are fifth with the same points (60) and only five goals fewer (65) than in the whole of last season when they came eighth. ‘I’d be disappointed,’ said Postecoglou when asked if he would have been happy with that outcome at the start of the season.

‘At the start of the year, I wouldn’t have settled for fifth. I would’ve tried to win it all.

‘Where we are is fair reflection of our season. We’ve been pretty good, but inconsistent. We’ve had some challenges, and I don’t think anyone would say we’re in a false position. We’ve earned where we are both from a good and not-so-good perspective.’

They made a sizzling start, winning with a cavalier swagger. And that was important. Postecoglou injected fun into a club where it had been in short supply under his immediate predecessors.

Fun versus trophies is a moving scale though. There will come a time when Spurs, with their glittering albeit distant past, will demand silverware.

For now, there is an air of contentment. The majority believe the latest boss has them back on the right track, and much of that is down to the first 10 league games, when they picked up 26 points despite selling Harry Kane, the club’s record scorer, on the eve of the opening game at Brentford.

The former Celtic boss admitted his side have been plagued by inconsistency this season

The former Celtic boss admitted his side have been plagued by inconsistency this season

‘You’re starting a season and the most significant person maybe ever at this club has just left,’ said Postecoglou. ‘I made a real conscious effort to be like the old duck looking really graceful above the water. And if there’s any panicking, make sure it’s under the water where nobody can see, particularly the players. The players never batted an eyelid. And you could because you can see what Harry has done at Bayern, it’s been unbelievable.

‘That’s a significant player who has left and he hasn’t been mentioned as much as he would’ve if we weren’t successful. And if we weren’t scoring goals his name would’ve come up a lot more.

‘That’s a credit to the playing group and all these things we’ve been through will help us in the medium and long term because it kind of removes any excuses we have for next year. We’re not going to lose another Harry Kane. With a bit of luck, we’ll have less injuries.’

Postecoglou has promised to review his training regime at the end of the season to see if anything can be changed to help.

Defender Destiny Udogie is the latest casualty, damaging a thigh in training. Udogie has had surgery and should be fit for next season but will miss Euro 2024 with Italy.

Injuries to new signings Mickey van de Ven and James Maddison brought the fine start to an abrupt end in November, they spluttered with Son Heung-min, Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr absent on international duty and have never recovered the same rhythm.

Injuries to several key players curtailed what was an excellent start to the campaign for Spurs

Injuries to several key players curtailed what was an excellent start to the campaign for Spurs

‘It feels like a real disrupted season,’ said Postecoglou. ‘That’s where I feel it’s hardest for me to assess because there’s no real chunk of work. It’s like I’m taking samples from everywhere. But we have six games to firm up a sense of where we’re at.’

After Arsenal, comes another London derby at Chelsea on Thursday, then a trip to Liverpool. A date with Manchester City lurks between games against Burnley and Sheffield United.

‘Six big ones,’ said Postecoglou. ‘If you’re at a big club and your ambition is to challenge for honours, you have to be prepared to embrace the big games. That’s the reality. You can’t ignore it.’

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