Ange Postecoglou is right to be furious – Tottenham fans showed small-club mentality

Tottenham Hotpur supporters arrived unsure whether to back their team, or hope Manchester City won – and all but deny Arsenal the chance to end their 20-year wait for a Premier League title
Ange Postecoglou was furious after his side's defeat to Manchester City, saying Tottenham's 'fragile foundations' had been revealed - Reuters/Dylan Martinez

We saw the Poznan. Except it was coming from Tottenham Hotspur fans inside the stadium; not from Manchester City. Those Spurs supporters turned their backs on the pitch and bounced up and down in unison celebrating the first goal during their 2-0 loss.

It was a City goal that led to that reaction and so we had our answer. The acid test would always be what happened when City scored. Or Spurs. And so when the first goal arrived, early in the second half, the extraordinary response said it all.

Tottenham fans
Some Tottenham fans 'do the Poznan' – a Manchester City goal celebration where fans link arms and turn their backs on the pitch in unison

It angered Ange Postecoglou and what he said spoke to the heart of just what Spurs are and what they want to achieve and maybe what is holding them back. It was almost an existential dissection and it was anchored in fury.

Asked whether he wanted to give a positive spin, with foundations being in place Postecoglou angrily shot that down. “No, I think the last 48 hours has revealed to me that the foundations are fairly fragile, mate,” he said. “That’s just what I think. I just think the last 48 hours have revealed a fair bit to me. That’s all right. It just means I’ve got to go back to the drawing board with some things.”

What did he think of the fans chanting ‘Are you watching Arsenal?’ after Erling Haaland’s first goal? “I’m not interested, mate. I just don’t care,” Postecoglou said before adding, somewhat ominously: “It’s been an interesting exercise.”

It was about “outside [the club], inside, everywhere”. “Maybe I am just out of step,” Postecoglou continued before stating he just wanted to win and “so what other people, how they want to feel, and what their priorities are, are of zero interest to me”.

Who was he criticising? The fans? The club? The media? It felt like it was everyone. Pre-match and Postecoglou could not have been clearer. He had spoken of his disbelief that Spurs fans might actually want their team to lose this game, to spite Arsenal and damage their title hopes, and here it was happening in front of his eyes. He looked absolutely furious and disbelieving.

He had a point. What happened when Haaland tapped home – some Tottenham fans even clapped – felt like a small-club mentality. It might be argued it was belligerence but it signalled defeat and it ended Spurs’ dwindling hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Surely that is what should have been pre-occupying them? Catching Aston Villa and finishing fourth – possible with a win as Villa had a trickier final-day fixture away to Crystal Palace, with Spurs at Sheffield United – had to be the priority in furthering their own ambitions.

Yes, it may have effectively handed Arsenal the title. Yes, it may have led to more songs and goading with them having last been champions 20 years ago when they gained a result at White Hart Lane. But, so what? Football is about winning, not worrying about rivals. Spurs have diminished themselves and Postecoglou’s reaction showed how he felt.

When that chant of “Are you watching Arsenal” rang around the South Stand it was a yoke being applied and an inferiority complex confirmed.

Before that, those fans did not know whether to laugh or cry; whether to be angry or militant or enjoy the painful absurdity of it all. And so instead they were subdued until City scored. This was as muted as it has ever been here. And that felt even worse.

It was surreal, with Spurs and City half-and-half scarves being touted outside before kick-off and middle-aged men staring earnestly into the TV cameras up and down the Tottenham High Road declaring they would rather “sell their mother” than see their team help Arsenal win the Premier League.

For once, the half-and-half scarves touted outside grounds almost made some sort of sense
For once, the half-and-half scarves touted outside grounds almost made some sort of sense - Getty Images/Justin Setterfield

“We’re not really here,” chanted the City supporters and it seemed like many of those home fans would have nodded in agreement. It did not look like they really wanted to be here. Or, once here, they did not know what to do.

Inside two minutes a loud rendition of “stand up if you hate Arsenal” rang around, but it was not particularly intense. It was heard again after half an hour but by then the muscle memory of backing their team had slowly begun to kick in, a little.

Did they want their team to score? Did they want their team to win even if it switched the advantage to Arsenal in the title race? Certainly it felt, when they attacked, like they did, even if they may have been responding by instinct rather than rationale. But it did not feel natural.

The City goal shifted the dynamic a little on the pitch and Spurs had chances, even if a draw would not have been enough. If anything it was the worst result of all – it would still have meant they could not overtake Villa while it would have installed Arsenal as title favourites. No doubt they would have said it was, well, the most ‘Spursy’ thing to do, especially as it would mean little for them and everything to their neighbours.

Instead, it was Haaland who ended it from the penalty spot and the relief flooded around. This time both sets of fans sang “Are you watching Arsenal?” while there was a loud and prolonged chorus of “When the Spurs go marching on”. It riled Postecoglou even more. His interpretation? That was just defeatism not defiance. He had it right.