When the term ‘Angeball’ is put to Pedro Porro at Tottenham’s training ground, he immediately laughs.
Porro then jokingly repeats the phrase out loud before explaining why it evokes such a warm reaction from him.
“It’s a system that I’m really suited to and it’s really working well for me,” the Spaniard exclusively tells Sky Sports on his 24th birthday.
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“It’s a new system that I haven’t played before. I’m playing inside as a full-back, but it’s somewhere I’m feeling confident.
“I’m feeling really happy out there and I think you can see that when I’m playing.”
A beaming Porro is loving his transformation from flying wing-back to inverted full-back under new Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou.
“For me, it’s not been so difficult to adapt to the new system,” he admits. “I’m someone who takes on these new concepts relatively easily.
“The difference is that with five [at the back], I’m able to have that more freedom to attack, whereas with four [at the back] often I’m defending in a line of four so I’ve been working really hard on my defensive game and I think that I’m improving on that front.
“It is different, but I feel good in both systems and, really, I’ll play wherever the coach asks me to.
“I’m enjoying it and increasingly every day I think I’ve got the vision.
“The coaching staff are saying I’ve got the vision to pick up this part of the game and the new system.”
Porro’s promising evolution into an inverted full-back was demonstrated in Spurs’ last game before the international break as they hammered Burnley 5-2 at Turf Moor.
He provided a wonderful assist – his first of the season – for Heung-Min Son’s hat-trick goal after the right-back took up a central midfield position to then bend a delightful through-ball for the South Korea international to score.
When Sky Sports shows Porro these still images of his inverted full-back role for the goal, the gleaming smile returns.
“In this particular instance,” he says, “I just tried to be focused and I’m always trying to look for the spaces, because quite often what we’re working on is the need to be ready and to be able to pick up spaces where you can’t be picked up by the opposition, so that’s really what we’re working on a lot and that’s what I’ve done here.”
His assist at Burnley combined with his 12 final third entries – the most of any player in the win – enhanced Porro’s suitability for Postecoglou’s free-flowing system following doubts over his role under the Australian.
Porro joined Spurs in January to play as a right wing-back in Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 system, so the switch to 4-3-3 under Postecoglou this summer raised question marks over how he would fit in – especially after making his move permanent from Sporting Lisbon for a reported £39m.
Those concerns were heightened when he was an unused substitute in the opening weekend draw at Brentford, with Emerson Royal preferred at right-back as he scored the equaliser.
But Porro surprisingly started the next game against Manchester United only to receive strong criticism from Sky Sports’ Gary Neville during commentary over his deployment as an inverted full-back.
“The reason that 95 per cent of full-backs play at full-back is because they can’t receive the ball on the half-turn in midfield,” he said in the opening few minutes.
Neville then despaired just before half-time: “I’m definitely not having it. Honestly, Porro thinks he’s Rodri meets Xavi.
“If you’re a Manchester United player pressing, you want him to have that ball played into him. It’s nearly cost them goals in this first half.
“It doesn’t work if you’re not comfortable on the ball. (Destiny) Udogie and Porro do well when they get into the attacking part of the pitch, but when it’s in the defensive half they have to get out of there because it’s causing more problems.”
Porro, however, responded with a strong second-half display that helped Tottenham to register their first win under Postecoglou, and he has started every Premier League game since impressing in the wins over Bournemouth and Burnley.
It was not the first time Porro has had to overcome criticism either, after ex-Spurs boss Tim Sherwood described his debut in February as “unbelievably bad” on Soccer Saturday following the 4-1 defeat at Leicester.
Asked whether he is motivated by proving the doubters wrong, Porro replies: “To be honest, there’s so much said about football and as to how we’re playing.
“At the beginning, there were times where I felt a little unloved in that sense, but not because of anyone in particular, just because of the noise.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to me. I’m the one who has to change people’s minds.
I’m definitely not having it. Honestly, Porro thinks he’s Rodri meets Xavi. It doesn’t work if you’re not comfortable on the ball.
“The criticism itself, I don’t give it too much importance and I just focus on my own game because I’m the one who can change these things.”
Porro is certainly changing under Postecoglou. He is averaging more successful passes, more touches and more shots in the Premier League this season than last.
But it is defensively where Porro is really having to refine his game with the defender spending more time in his own box this season than last, as the graphic below illustrates.
Upon Porro’s inspection of the heat map, Sky Sports asks him whether he has been working harder on his defensive game and he replies: “Yes, absolutely.
“With the five-man defence, you’ve got the responsibility to attack. You’re often the spare man going forward, whereas with the four-man defence you have to be concentrated the whole time in defence and so you have to be always ready when you go forward.
“You can also be involved in going forward, but you have to be ready to get back and defend, and I know that’s something I’ve had to work harder on in my game.”
Porro’s defensive qualities will be under the microscope next weekend when Spurs go to rivals Arsenal for the first north London derby of the season on September 24, live on Sky Sports.
But Postecoglou’s side have an ideal chance to maintain momentum ahead of that crunch game at the Emirates Stadium with the visit of winless Sheffield United on Saturday.
Second-placed Spurs face the newly-promoted side unbeaten in the Premier League and aiming for a fourth consecutive win – form that is in stark contrast to the end of last season as Tottenham won just two of their final eight games to finish a disappointing eighth.
“I think it’s more the work that we’re doing as a team,” Porro says when questioned why Spurs have started so well. “We’re all together and I think that’s the most important thing.”
It is a togetherness and unity that is being driven by Postecoglou in a complete step-change from last campaign’s gloom.
Postecoglou’s Spurs revolution is truly in full swing and in Porro he has a major supporter and beneficiary.
“I’m really, really happy with how things are going,” he says. “Since he [Postecoglou] has got here he’s given us so much positivity to the team and it’s something very important for players to have, and I think you can see that when we’re playing.”
But whenever Spurs are not playing, it will be Porro’s glowing smile that shows the profound impact ‘Angeball’ is having on this Tottenham squad.
Watch Arsenal vs Tottenham live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League on September 24 from 1pm; kick-off 2pm.