MANCHESTER, England (AP) — There was little to suggest Tottenham would make an unbeaten start in the Premier League this season, winning four out of five games to leave it two points behind leader Manchester City and second in the standings.
The London club did, after all, sell record goal scorer Harry Kane to Bayern Munich in the offseason without signing an obvious replacement.
Spurs were also on the back of a campaign that saw them fail to qualify for Europe for the first time since 2009 after discarding a fourth manager in as many years when Antonio Conte became the latest in a long line of coaches to fail to bring success to the club.
Few, then, would have expected Ange Postecoglou to bring the feel-good factor in such a short space of time after being hired in June and named Premier League manager of the month for August.
It has been quite a honeymoon period for the Australian coach. Not that he agrees.
“I don’t know what your honeymoon was like, but mine didn’t have me losing the greatest player in the history of this football club on the eve of a transfer window,” he said last week.
His straight-talking approach and sense of humor have already made him popular among Spurs supporters. And Postecoglou will make himself a hero to fans if he can secure a win in his first north London derby against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Tottenham was not expected to go neck and neck with the Gunners, who finished runner-up to City last season and signed Declan Rice for $138 million in a bid to go one better this time round.
Like Tottenham, Arsenal also has 13 points from a possible 15, but is in fourth place on goal difference.
Sunday's game will be the biggest test of Postecoglou's early reign, even if he has already overseen a 2-0 win against Manchester United. Tottenham hasn't won a league game away to Arsenal since 2011. Before that, it was 1993 in what has been a very one-sided fixture.
For all the positivity surrounding Spurs this season, the club's fans have become accustomed to seeing promising situations come to nothing. Nuno Espirito Santo was its last coach to be named manager of the month, at the start of the 2021-22 season, and was gone by November of that year.
But Postecoglou, who led Celtic to a treble of trophies last season, could hardly have done more to give fresh hope that he could finally be the manager to turn Tottenham's fortunes around after 15 years without a trophy.
At the age of 58, however, he is too experienced to get carried away with a bright start that was extended by two goals in stoppage time to secure a comeback win against newly promoted Sheffield United last week.
“Everywhere I’ve been, the second year is where I’ve felt like the team has really taken hold, but I also understand at this football club I can’t go three, four, five months without results because I won’t last. That’s the reality of it," he said.
While these are early stages for Postecoglou, Mikel Arteta has assembled an Arsenal team that looks likely to again be the main challenger to City, which hosts Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
If not for a late collapse last term, Arsenal could have broken City's dominance of English soccer. It spent 248 days at the top of the division — the longest any team had done so without going on to win the title.
Arteta has been backed again in the transfer market and beat City to the signing of England midfielder Rice. Champions League winner Kai Havertz was also signed from Chelsea.
Arsenal issued a statement of intent by beating City in the Community Shield and is unbeaten in all competitions this season. It beat PSV Eindhoven 4-0 on its return to the Champions League on Wednesday.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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James Robson, The Associated Press