What has Jose Mourinho changed at Tottenham since his arrival two months ago? The answer, sadly, appears to be more than a little, but still far less than expected…
In the aftermath of his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking, Jose Mourinho’s initial change of approach was a hugely welcome one at the time he took over. Prior to his first game as Spurs boss, Tottenham had lost points after scoring first in each of their prior trio of league games.
By extension, the Lilywhites had also taken just three points from the previous 15 available, and had gone 12 away games without a win – yielding a dreadful 75% loss rate within that run. Harry Kane had also seen three opening goals rendered meaningless by poor defending during that sequence.
The new tactics initially seemed to work, with the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Eric Dier and Harry Winks in the centre of the park given less license to roam than they were under Pochettino. The key difference, ultimately, was in the more defined split between players designated to defend and those who must adopt an attacking approach. With the clear aim of establishing a more balanced equilibrium between risk and reward, Mourinho’s debut would be a victorious one. Yet, even so, there were still lingering questions over the defence, which had somehow conceded twice to a far inferior West Ham side.
The new regime represents a change from the years of swift (if occasionally error-prone) counter-attacking moves under Pochettino, which helped bring Spurs unprecedented successive podium finishes. Thus, some critics assert that Mourinho’s impact, at least aesthetically, has reduced the entertainment factor at Tottenham.
Uncertainty Over Fourth Place Battle
The volatile nature of Tottenham’s prices, especially in spread markets (such as total points) relating to a top-four finish, suggests profound doubt in their ability to accomplish that goal. Indeed, those in such doubt can find out here just how much the likelihood of Tottenham finishing fourth could well drift away in the coming weeks.
Mourinho’s first two months at Tottenham have not entirely been negative though. In true personal fashion, he guided Tottenham safely through the group stage after a major scare, having seen his side go 2-0 down inside 20 minutes in a pivotal home match against Olympiakos – before recovering to win 4-2.
With Mourinho’s efforts to reinforce Tottenham’s backline proving erratic in their output, the old adage of attack being the best form of defence is in the minds of some Tottenham fans and players alike. Losing Harry Kane through injury is a clear and obvious setback, even for even A-list managers like Mourinho, but the improved form of Dele Alli is one positive, as is the new level of consistency reached by Son Heung-Min.
Both men scored in Tottenham’s recent 2-1 win over Norwich. Alli’s rediscovered sense of purpose once more showed with particular distinction, reflected by second-half goals in three games (of five) prior to that match. Son Heung-Min, meanwhile, has been in a class of his own lately. He is already a Goal of the Season contender for his sensational goal against Burnley in December, and has proven talismanic on the road, with his last seven away goals in the league (as of January 2020) all coming during victories.
Psychological ‘Barrier’ Requires Expert Hands
The tools are undoubtedly there for Mourinho to create a foundation on which to launch a strong end to 2019/20. Aside from deploying Alli and Son in advanced positions in Kane’s absence, and forcing the opposition back, there is little else Mourinho can do. If nothing else, one element that Tottenham fans would certainly like to see gone is the habit of losing against fellow elite opposition in the league.
Liverpool, for instance, have already completed a league double over Tottenham, alongside defeats to erratic sides in Manchester United (away) and Chelsea (at home) coming in between those reverses against the champions-elect. Thus, the club’s need for a psychological edge – as well as a tactical one – is as self-evident as ever.
Football lore dictates that Mourinho is one of very few men who can do that, but the suggestion now is that the ‘Special One’ must swallow his pride, and seek the counsel of others in order to cover every possible area for development within the Spurs squad.