·26 September 2023
·26 September 2023
Tottenham without Harry Kane? No problem. Ange Postecoglou's side headed into the Premier League season for the first time in several years without their leading goalscorer, creative play-maker and undisputed talisman, and even the most ardent of Spurs fans would have been forgiven for feeling a touch pessimistic.
But fast forward almost six weeks later, and the north London side are riding high in the top-flight, with a imposing win over Manchester United, a stunning comeback against Sheffield United and a spirited 2-2 draw away in the north London derby at Arsenal. While Postecoglou has certainly got a tune out of most, if not all of his players, one player stands out from the rest for the sheer impact he has made at the club since arriving: James Maddison.
The England international arrived in the summer from relegated Leicester for a fee in the region of £40m, with reports suggesting he would be earning around £170k-a-week at Hotspur Way - not exactly the costliest of deals in either transfer fee or wages in this modern world. Since then, he has made sure that it has been money well spent and making an early return on that deal. Two goals and four assists in his opening six Premier League games for the club has already got fans salivating at the prospect of him enjoying his best years at the club in the near future. Not since the days of Christian Eriksen have Spurs had a genuinely creative attacking midfielder, capable not only of scoring great goals himself, but also setting them up - something that Maddison himself suggested the north London side lacked in recent years.
When I was speaking to my agent about moving clubs and you come to a place where you need to make decisions, where you want to go and what you think fits best, I could actually see myself playing for Spurs. There’s a little window for me at Tottenham Hotspur, a creative player that they’ve always had, maybe not had in recent years. I could definitely see myself, when making the decision, playing for Tottenham, in that kit, in that stadium and being the creative player I know I can be.
Dubbed as "unbelievable" by England teammate, Kieran Trippier, Maddison put in a superb performance in the north London derby against Arsenal, getting back at Bukayo Saka's mockery of his own goal celebration in the best way possible. Twice the Lilywhites fought from behind, and twice it was Maddison at the heart of things. First, his driving run from the left-hand side saw him beat his man before pulling it back for Heung-min Son to net the first of his two. Then, in the second-half, immediately after Bukayo Saka had given Arsenal the lead again, Maddison robbed Jorginho of the ball in the middle of the park, surged forward and then slipped in his South Korean teammate once again to equalise.
It was a display full of energy, movement and creativity, and precisely why Spurs decided to shell out in the summer to bring him in. The fact the north Londoners lost their attacking impetus the moment he went off encapsulated just how important he was not just in that game, but already to the team as a whole in general. He was at the heart of everything good about the side, and quite encouragingly for Spurs fans, is his already exciting link-up with Heung-min Son. The South Korea star of course enjoyed one of the finest partnerships of the Premier League era with Kane, combining to devastating effect when the England striker was at the club. But Maddison's arrival has similarly unlocked a natural understanding between the two.
His performance against Arsenal would have had Spurs fans reminiscing about the last time they had such a creative force in their side. But while Eriksen became a cult hero in north London, when you compare Maddison's stats with the Dane's first campaign in the Premier League, then the former Leicester star favours considerably well. If he continues in this vein of form until the rest of the season, then he will finish with significantly more goals and assists than Eriksen, while his underlying numbers are all better barring crosses per game.
Just as much as his ability on the ball, it's clear Maddison is the kind of character who can really define this new Spurs era under Postecoglou. Far too often in recent years, the club have been branded 'soft', 'weak' and 'bottlejobs'. But with their new talisman leading the way, and the kind of mentality he has, those taglines should become a part of history. The club's recruitment over the years has been questionable but Maddison already looks set to be an unqualified success just a few games in to his Premier League career at Spurs.
I'm at my best when I have responsibility on my shoulders - that's when I thrive. I'm a player who loves to be on the ball and that fits with how the manager wants his players to play.
While Levy might not be the most popular figure in north London, his signing of Maddison certainly needs to be applauded. He may not get a lot of things right, but snapping the England star up before any of their rivals swooped in is already proving to be a masterstroke. If the play-maker can lead Spurs back into the Champions League this season, he will have already made up for his £40m and then some. It may be the kind of signing that fans look back at on next summer as the one that defined their entire campaign and set them on the course to future success.