LONDON -- Ange Postecoglou makes no secret of his football philosophy testing the faith of the players at his disposal. On Sunday, captain Son Heung-Min ensured Tottenham's response was as emphatic as their manager could have hoped for.
Spurs beat Newcastle 4-1 to end a five-game winless run that had raised questions over whether Postecoglou's attacking brand of football, thrilling as it undeniably is, could ultimately deliver the success a club waiting 15 years and counting for silverware has long craved. It is a familiar juncture for Postecoglou, who only this week claimed such doubts have been cast in his previous roles, most recently at Celtic, insisting that "players need to go through that and come out the other side and see that 'OK, we've survived that. It hasn't killed us, we're still going, we're still alive, we're still up for it', right?"
They were bang up for it here. Son made sure of victory, with two assists and a penalty to secure a victory over an injury-depleted Newcastle and take Spurs to within three points of fourth-placed Manchester City.
"I thought Sonny was excellent, particularly in the first half and really caused them problems by being positive. That sort of thing feeds off to the other guys," Postecoglou said. "They see his authority in that area and they take their lead from that.
"Sonny set the tone. You rely on your leaders to take initiative. That's what you need for leadership, and we were a lot more threatening in the final third."
The South Korea international has largely featured as a centre-forward following Harry Kane's departure to Bayern Munich in the summer, but he started off the left here in one of several lineup tweaks, with Dejan Kulusevski operating as a No.10 and Brennan Johnson off the right. Postecoglou's high-wire act always leaves room for a fall and Spurs rode their luck early on here, with Ben Davies producing a last-ditch touch to divert an eighth-minute cross from Anthony Gordon out of Alexander Isak's path as the Swedish forward looked certain to open the scoring.
From there, Tottenham struck first, just as they have done in each of their last six matches, and it was Son came to the fore. He was unrelenting in running at Newcastle defender Kieran Trippier, earning two brilliant assists in the opening 38 minutes that were just reward for another scintillating attacking display.
First, Son produced a quick step-over in the box to create space away from Trippier and his delivery found Destiny Udogie inside the six-yard box to score his first goal for the club. The goal was a classic example of the risk-reward Postecoglou's approach offers. Udogie nominally operates at left-back, but here he was exchanging passes with Son before arriving like a striker to convert from close range.
When Pep Guardiola was asked earlier this month to respond to Postecoglou's joke that his style merely mimics the City manager, he said: "I would say my full-backs go inside, but their full-backs go into the pockets. They are attacking midfielders. I've never seen it before. I never used that. It belongs absolutely to him."
And so the opening goal belonged to Postecoglou, a timely validation of his tactics, and it was a platform they would not relinquish this time. Son roasted Trippier again seven minutes before the break, leaving the England defender floundering as this time he set up Richarlison to score just his third league goal for the club since signing from Everton for £60 million in July 2022.
Even when winning eight of their opening 10 games, Postecoglou has regularly claimed a lack of efficiency in front of goal has resulted in a failure to maximise the benefits of their aggressive attacking; what a fillip it would be, therefore, if Sunday marked a permanent return to form for the Brazilian. His second goal offered further encouragement, with Richarlison collecting Pedro Porro's excellent angled pass to control and finish past Martin Dúbravka.
Son won an 85th-minute penalty he then converted -- the first Spurs player other than Kane to score a spot kick since Dele Alli did it in August 2021 -- before Joelinton struck a consolation in stoppage-time for a Newcastle side depleted by injury and fatigued by a gruelling schedule.
Newcastle's present state should cap the enthusiasm for Tottenham's display, but nevertheless this is a result -- achieved, let's not forget, despite several Spurs absentees -- that sets Postecoglou and his team back on a positive path ahead of the hectic Christmas schedule. Pape Matar Sarr started his first game since Nov. 11, Richarlison had to wait even longer (Oct. 27) to return from groin surgery, while Son survived a back scare sustained against West Ham in midweek.
"We're trying to build something here and part of that is through the tough periods, to not allow the lads too much latitude in terms of excuses," said Postecoglou. "But the reality is, I have probably been too hard on them in retrospect but we got decimated [by injury] after the Chelsea game. And it is no coincidence that now we are getting some players back that we are starting to look a lot stronger."
As the game drifted into stoppage time, Son passed the captain's armband to Romero and left the pitch to a standing ovation, his job done for another afternoon. Postecoglou embraced him with a warm hug on the touchline, the symbol of players and manager in lockstep once more.