The Ange Postecoglou situation at Celtic that should calm Tottenham nerves for next season

Tottenham’s set-piece problems have become an issue this season but recent history suggests Ange Postecoglou handles that problem.

Spurs’ Achilles heel this season has often been conceding goals from set-pieces. The north London side have conceded 12 goals from set-pieces this season – the joint-sixth worst tally in the Premier League with Manchester United – and that total does not include own goals, such as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s from an Arsenal corner on Sunday. The total for goals conceded around set pieces has been put at 14.

Postecoglou has been asked about the team’s set-piece woes on a number of occasions this season and asked the Australian on Sunday afternoon whether with two more conceded during the North London Derby it had now become more of a worrying trend over the course of the campaign.

“No because it’s understanding where you are as a football team. If I thought fixing defensive set pieces was the answer to us bridging the gap then I’d put all of my time and effort into that, but that’s not where we’re at,” said the 58-year-old. “For us it’s about, when I was focused on the details of, not just set pieces but a lot of moments in games where we don’t sense that you give good opposition the time and the space to do things then they’re going to hurt you.

“I think they maybe had four attempts on goal in the first half and they conceded three. I don’t think it’s about one part of it, I think it’s a bigger, broader picture than that, but our defensive set pieces for those two were very poor. But there’s a lot more than that to fix.”

Postecoglou playing down the set-piece pattern over the season – or at least saying other issues were more important – worried a number of supporters in the aftermath of a defeat to their local rivals.

However, in the Tottenham head coach’s defence, it’s worth looking at what happened during his two-year tenure at Celtic to find a similar process to the one he alluded to in his answer on Sunday.

Celtic won the Scottish Premiership and the League Cup in his first season at the Glasgow club but one of the main criticisms of his team during that first year was the set-pieces, at both ends of the pitch.

Postecoglou’s side conceded 10 set-piece goals in his first campaign at the club – the fourth highest tally in the Scottish Premiership – with some heavy criticism from the Glasgow media mid-season of their defending from them.

In February of that season, with over half of the goals they had conceded in the league coming from set pieces – nine of 17 – the Australian did admit that the set-piece defending was something that bothered him.

“It’s a concern. [Especially] when we’re dominating a game so much, defending so well and keeping them away from goal, Joe Hart didn’t have a save to make. I don’t think he even touched the ball with his hands,” he said. “If they can just lob balls in the box and we concede, that’s not good.

“It’s something we need to address, have a little more conviction in our box, the same way we do in the opposition box. There are definitely lessons in there but that’s part of our continual improvement as a team. There are still areas we need to get better at and that’s one of them.”

Celtic would only concede one more from that point on in the league, although those 10 goals would still account for almost half of the 22 they let in.

As the side grew under Postecoglou, so the set-piece defending continued to improve in his second season as they only conceded seven times from them in the entire league campaign – the fewest set-piece goals conceded in the league.

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