Ange Postecoglou learns the hard way what Tottenham fans have known for years

Ange Postecoglou learns the hard way what Tottenham fans have known for years

Ange Postecoglou said he wanted to learn about his Tottenham fringe players after making nine changes for last night's Carabao Cup second-round defeat at Fulham, but for supporters there were few real takeaways from a frustrating night.

Most Spurs fans were already aware that Davinson Sanchez - who missed the only penalty in a 5-3 shootout defeat after a 1-1 draw - has long been short of form and confidence, and that a full-back pairing of Emerson Royal and Ben Davies was unlikely to offer much attacking thrust.

They were already aware that a midfield of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp and Giovani Lo Celso would struggle to play through Fulham, and that goalkeeper Fraser Forster is not well-suited to Postecoglou's demands.

Postecoglou, though, learnt the hard way, and Spurs's hopes in the season's most winnable competition are over before the month of August is out and without the top seven even entering the draw. Their chances of ending a 15-year wait for silverware now surely depend on the FA Cup.

It is easy to work backwards from a poor result but Postecoglou's team selection ultimately felt like a miscalculation, especially given the club's lack of European football and fans' desperation for a proper crack at the cups.

For a manager who has spoken with such force about the need for change, last night was all-too-familiar, not so very different from the domestic cup defeats to Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United last season, when Antonio Conte rested players.

Making so many changes rarely leads to cohesion, especially against a Fulham side who were closer to full-strength, and it was particularly strange given Sanchez and Hojbgerg are among the players who could still leave Spurs before Friday's 11pm transfer deadline.

"[The Carabao Cup] is my priority but there is no European football, so how am I going to find out about our players?" Postecoglou said.

Davinson Sanchez missed the crucial penalty for Spurs (Action Images via Reuters)
Davinson Sanchez missed the crucial penalty for Spurs (Action Images via Reuters)

If there was one big lesson for the manager, it is that his style of play is unlikely to be feasible without certain individuals.

With Forster and Sanchez in for Guglielmo Vicario and Cristian Romero, Spurs struggled to build from the back, while they desperately needed Yves Bissouma and probably James Maddison - a late substitute - to bypass Fulham's press.

With Vicario in goal and Bissouma anchoring the midfield, an otherwise similar-looking Spurs side outplayed Barcelona's first XI in the Joan Gamper Trophy on August 8, but last night without technical passers, capable of playing under pressure, they were disjointed and overrun by an impressive Fulham, who took the lead through Micky van de Ven's own goal before Richarlison's second-half equaliser.

With five or six changes, Spurs would still have had a team capable of playing the Australian's way and potentially maintaining the momentum and mood from their hugely encouraging start to the campaign.

As it is, Postecoglou's project has suffered an early setback, which - with respect to Fulham - felt entirely avoidable.