Going Nowhere With Mourinho

This week, I was told I should be grateful that Jose Mourinho is Spurs’ manager. This nugget of wisdom came from a new breed of football fan, one who supports an individual rather than a team. He (it’s bound to be a man) follows me on twitter only because his chosen one is now at my club. See also Messi and Ronaldo fanboys.

And there you have it. The difference between a long-term supporter and a passer-by, because I think Mourinho should be grateful to be at my club.  Players and managers come and go, supporters are the one true constant in the life of any and every club. We hold the club’s history and heritage, Mourinho should be honoured and proud to be a part of it. He has a chance to add to it.

I wonder why he’s here. And, while I usually avoid simplistic accounts because in football as in life they’re invariably wrong, what on earth is he doing? It’s a legitimate question after last night, the only question.

To be complete, it should also be addressed to the players as Tottenham living rooms across the UK and the world joined as one voice to shout at their television, many, many times during 90 minutes, ‘what the f**k are you doing?” The second half was excruciating. No plan, no shape, no inspiration. Can’t pass, can’t shoot, can’t defend. Can’t go on.

My expectations aren’t excessive. We’re not going to qualify for the Champions League, and frankly with the team the way it is, Europa league football feels like torture, so I won’t complain if we don’t make that either. We’re getting back to full fitness after the break. I bear no sense of entitlement. I’ve never fallen for the ‘Jose’s a born winner’ horsedung.

No. I’ve set my sights low. At times pre-lockdown, the players appeared not have been introduced to each other, let alone understand what they were supposed to be doing on the field. I’ve been looking for some sense of direction, that Mourinho had a message for the players and that he could get this through to them. Rebuilding after Poch left behind joyous memories and a bit of a mess. I’ll be patient, because I’ve been around for a while and will be for a while longer. Howevr, even these low expectations are unfeasible.

Mourinho copped stick after the Man Utd game for his negative tactics, and anyone who has dropped into this blog over the past decade knows I want attacking football in the Spurs Way more than anyone. But I loved it. I enjoyed seeing the wide midfielders drop back so our full-backs weren’t constantly exposed. I cherished the sight of a back four close together in a line, leaving few gaps. I cheered Sissoko and Winks sitting in front of the back four. Mourinho’s message was heard, and the players looked confident. For now, that’s the most important thing for the team.

Granted, it also proved how far we’ve fallen. Everybody back behind the ball, or as I am now duty bound to call it, the low block, isn’t pretty and it’s a telling sign that we no longer have the ability or ambition to take the game to opponents with a pressing style. Also, the difference between us and them was the class that we used to have and United in Pogba and Fernandes now possess. Buying N’Dombele rather than Fernandes looks like a catastrophic error in the market. But we did not collapse, and dropping back was the right approach in that game.

West Ham were a different challenge, where we had to come out and break them down. And so a different approach, with a raft of attackers given freedom to move around and across the frontline, building patiently from the back.

Two games, two approaches, early days but here is the manager successfully adapting to circumstances. Or so I believed. I don’t like the way Mourinho carries or presents himself. I don’t think he is the right fit at this club. But he’s our man, love the shirt and build again. After all, I’ve seen George Graham turn Rebrov from one of the most admired strikers in Europe to a hustler forlornly pursuing ill-directed headed flick-ons. I’ve seen Terry Neill practice being a manager at Spurs while he waited for the Ar***al vacancy. Ah, the 90s, no direction, not even false hopes, just no hope. Where mediocrity was an ambition not a disaster. The battle for 9th. Finishing position in single figures! So I know how to handle this.

Sheffield United are often unfairly and mistakenly characterised as willing triers who put in a lot of effort. They are much more than this. Work rate is a means towards an end. They are tactically sophisticated with an understanding of their players’ talents and how to maximise their potential as a team. Everything Spurs are not. As the commentator said towards the end, Wilder outsmarted Mourinho.

None of this is an excuse for some wretched individual performances. Abject defending. Turning open space into blind alleys. Relying on Aurier to cross the ball accurately or Sissoko to pass the ball. Lo Celso wasted deep.

Commitment is nothing unless it is allied to clarity of focus. Sanchez summed up Spurs’ approach, incensed by what he thought, wrongly, was an unjust foul against him in the last five minutes. I wish he had become as worked up about trying to win the game. And hey kids – you do memes, dontcha!? TV close-up of N’Dombele’s face as, “why am I here???” And yet, that ball he slid through a packed defence to Kane, who was offside but that’s what he can do that we sorely need.

VAR – a cursed blight on football that delights keyboard fanboys and TV execs, nobody else. Rant elsewhere on this blog, not doing it again. One day, I’ll dig it out and you can add it yourselves to every game where it is used.

Elbow in the face when a player is on a yellow. Referees huh? Atrocious decision.

I planned a piece comparing Spurs and Liverpool. Force yourself to recall the days when we finished consistently ahead of them because they did not have a clear vision on and off the pitch. However, Jack Pitt-Brooke has written it in The Athletic this week, so read that. Summary: Klopp was backed by the board, Poch wasn’t.

Klopp and Mourinho both have egos the size of a postal district. Shrinking violets don’t cut it as football managers. But there’s a difference. Earlier this week, The Athletic headlined a Klopp piece, “it’s never about him”. With JM, there’s only him. Publicly criticising his own players. Last night, it sounded as if he spent the second half polishing his VAR speech rather than changing his team so they played better. In March, it was all about buying players, “July 1st! July 1st!” Earlier this week, ‘we don’t need anyone’. Last night, he’s saying that he feared the players wouldn’t have the mental strength. “Now I know more about the profile of my players”. He’s had 7 months. As if he has no influence over these matters. He’s worked hard over the break to get to know his men. He’s not getting through. His first instinct is to protect himself.

So what is he doing here? It’s rare, though not unheard of, that successful leaders drop down from the pinnacle of their chosen field to begin again and build something up with equal success. They think it’s an appealing prospect. Do what you did before, feel the rush of growth of progress, better than those stale moments during the inevitable fall from the peaks, a reminder of younger days. It’s seldom the same. Never go back.

Mourinho built with limited resources at Porto, but that was a while ago, ancient history in football terms. His task at Spurs is build and rejuvenate with limited resources, something that he’s not done for a long time. Never mind the players, Jose, time to reflect on what you’re doing, because Levy won’t save you with cash for players, and this can’t go on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “Going Nowhere With Mourinho

  1. Total agreement with the whole raft of your reactions. As soon as that atrocious VAR verdict arrived, the spirit and drive of the team evaporated. That Norwood – on a yellow – remained on the pitch after a blatant forearm smash seemed to puncture our ambition as well as our enterprise.

    My longer term concern is that Mourinho will have exacted such a commitment from Levy before signing we will have been backed into a corner that is financially (and pride-wise) insurmmountable. Our football this year has descended from the unpredictable to the unwatchable. I’m too embarrassed to be interested any more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Alan
    As always, thank you for your insightful comments. As a Spurs fan for 50 years I share your experience and pain. Last nights performance was poor and I continue to have reservations regarding Jose. However the performances against Man Utd and West Ham showed signs of improvement and judgement should be passed at the end of the season.

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  3. Been a Spurs supporter since the time they toured South Africa in the 60’s.
    I was appalled at last night’s performance.
    Get rid of Jose !!!Heartbreaking to see how we have imploded under his leadership

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  4. Pingback: Man City beat Liverpool 4-0 and NOW they must change! – kooorah

  5. I find it all so depressing. I feel for some of the players who have grown with us over the past few years. I want to say to the likes of Kane, Sonny and Dele, “thanks for the good times , now go somewhere where you have a chance to achieve the success you deserve.”

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  6. I have to say that was the worst performance I’ve ever seen by a spurs side, the players look uninterested and totally bored at playing under him.
    Why oh why would you keep MS on when it’s obvious to everyone watching that he has no idea what to do with the ball when he’s got it.
    How the hell do you leave HW on the bench when he single handily controls most games in that midfield.
    And what is going on with Toby why isn’t he playing , why bring Jan with ten mins to go, i think this shows that JM has not got a clue any more, he has had his time and now it’s maybe time fir him to go and manage an unknown national team.
    I really have never liked him he’s arrogant and obviously clueless to, where is the young Fulham lad RS what has he done to deserve not to even be on the bench, why not give parrot a try, coz let’s face it we will not qualify for any European Cup competition this year and we really don’t deserve to be either.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Have to agree but (weirdly) put myself in Levy’s shoes. He’s a business man, not a football man and he must think “Why should I spend millions on defenders when Blades have a better defence just from good coaching?” This is why he won’t invest.

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    • He needed to invest the year we nearly beat Leicester to the title, then we would still have Poch and we would be challenging again .
      I say that we should wait for Eddie Howe to get the sack and get someone young in, we did that with Poch and look what very nearly happened, why do teams go for big name managers take a punt on someone who hasn’t got a massive ego and will bust a gut to get the respect of the staff and fans, or even better convince Poch to come back, just can’t believe , how anyone can say that any of those players had a good game last night.

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  8. Strikes me that we are neither a Mourinho team, nor a traditional Spurs team; we are something in the middle and if you don’t know where you are going, etc…
    I felt even worse after watching this rubbish and then comparing it to the Man City and Liverpool game. They are playing in a different league to us because they have better players, with superior technique and understanding of their position. But this is a consequence of dining from a different table of transfer talent. We just get their crumbs that fall from their table. In most games we get our fair share of possession in dangerous areas but promising moves slip through our fingers like sand, such as the dreadful cross from Aurier in the first moments when he had time and targets to aim for but he simply smashed it over their heads. Pitiful. Our forwards fail to offer themselves in and around the box leaving Lo Celso and Lamela and Son with nothing to aim for. With two or three defenders locking up Harry we should have the nous to offer alternatives in the box but it was all very static and predictable. Look at City and ‘Pool again and see how they offer themselves, they are constantly on the move. We are constantly standing still.
    Mourinho also pays lip service to our attacking traditions and tells us that he plays a very attacking line-up but that is the root of our problem. We do not have the roots of a solid midfield to protect the defence and earn the right to battle for points which is exactly how Sheffield have approached their season.
    Like Alan I am almost thankful we aren’t good enough for the European places. It was a joke to expect a top four place and the prospect of slogging through the Europa Cup is as much a curse as a financial blessing. With our limited resources of true quality maybe Mourinho can coax those players and their tired legs through a full season – I’m thinking of the benefit of not having Harry suffer his regular mid-season breakdown.
    When Mourinho got the job I felt we had signed up the wrong Portuguese. We should have approached Nuno to put a bit of Espirito into the new stadium. He could have brought Traore with him and we’d have a reason to look forward to each weekend.
    Win one, lose one, draw one. It was ever thus.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dave: “Win one, lose one, draw one. It was ever thus.” Nailed it. Alan, a very fine blog and reflection of what we feel. Our present manager is the antithesis of Blanchflower’s call to arms about glory and doing things in style—even if I never saw Danny play. Roll on the new season. COYS!

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    • Here’s another way of assessing our current condition: without denigrating the Sheffield United squad, how many of their players would you insert into the Tottenham starting eleven? Not many, I think. So it forces us to examine our team selection, set-up, tactics and approach to the game in hand, as well our sheer determination and attitude. This was not a one-off stinker of a performance – we can choose others against the titans of Brighton, Watford, Southampton and Burnley and in this game we managed a grand total of just two strikes on goal. So there is a pattern of collective failure. It’s simply not acceptable given the talent available and expectations. Mourinho shouldn’t hide behind the mantra of not having had a pre-season; he’s been around long enough to show what he can do with the talent and quality available to him. Maybe we should expect more of the team and it’s collective desire to battle against misfortune. It’s as if we expect to be allowed to play the way we want and when it doesn’t happen we haven’t the guile, or the leadership or the organization or the quality to fix it on the pitch.

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  9. Agree with all your views
    Ndombele terrible buy – he will never make it in the premier league- the odd decent pass does not make him worth a place. Sell him and use whatever we get on somebody better . The night showed where we are , sadly a mid-table outfit .
    I did not see any spark or guile, players were far too slow and passing was so poor. Surely, the players should know what to do when the team is playing that badly?
    Sadly, they are bereft of ideas and passion.
    The substitutions were strange and made no difference
    Sheffield United have had a very poor start but, made us look like relegation candidates
    What’s the answer – change the manager – change the players ?
    Some passion for the club and a will to win from players, who just seem to be going through the motions would be a start
    Many years of supporting Tottenham and we were getting near to winning something but, now we are going backwards
    Jose was going to push us into getting trophies – cannot see that happening now , without wholesale changes of those mediocre players for guys who have that will and endeavour to win
    Europa league is hopefully beyond us now
    COYS – wake up and smell the trophies

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  10. I love your writing Alan.Honest viewpoint but personally I didnt like our tactic vrs United and just knew that it wasnt this tactical brilliance to save our attacking for the other 9 games. There was no bravery in Mourinho’s position just negative tactics at home. We’ve seen this before.
    We lack creativity. Much of it sits on the bench in NDombele and Skipp in favour of defensive bots.
    Everyone says that this was a one off to get a point and the rest of the way it will be different.
    This week against Sheffield United we could see the negatively oozing out of Mourinho. Its bleak.
    When he came he played like Klopp at interviews,fun stuff but now he has reverted.
    Negative vibes.He foes put on NDombele but NDombele cant go forward and create as Sissoko went off.
    Again brilliant decisions. We are left with tippy tappy nonsense going nowhere
    VAR is convenient for Mourinho. Great excuses ready made.

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  11. Calm down everyone. It’s a ‘correction’ (or blip) in the market. And it’s not all bloody Jose’s fault, either!
    He came in half way through a very strange season, after Poch had been talking himself out of a job since April 2019, as our glorious CL finalists otherwise under-performed in the PL throughout the whole of last year. It’s wasn’t Jose’s fault that Levy never spent money in the transfer market at the end of the 2017/18 season. It wasn’t Jose’s fault that Kane became injury prone and is not the player, or even leader, he was 2 or 3 seasons back. It is not Jose’s fault that Son and Moura (excellent and woeful in equal measure) are so horribly inconsistent. It’s just the way they are, famine or feast, although I agree they shouldn’t play together from the start. It’s not Jose’s fault that there’s no back up striker for Kane, and that Alli has not been the same player for two seasons now, or that Dier hasn’t either (as a DM, because he was only ever a makeweight centre half). It’s not Jose’s fault that he arrived at the start of the decline of our two great Belgian centre backs. It wasn’t he that brought the characterless Ndombele into our midst (what is it with our club record signings ..think Rebrov, Bent, Soldado/Lamela, Sissoko, although he turned out OK in the end, Sanchez and now Ndomele??). Levy acted poorly over an increasingly insipid Eriksen situation, when he should have tied him down to a new deal in 2018, but with an insertion/clause that he COULD leave if the club of his dreams (Real, Barca, PSG?) came in for him by the summer of 2020 (when his original contract was due to end). But the reality? Spurs get bugger all in a transfer fee for a world class player. Our once great Dane winds down the clock on his contract, barely performing on the pitch instead of showcasing himself, with the deserved upshot that his ‘dream clubs’ lose interest, and he ends up embarrassingly going to Inter (a sideways step from us). My last great memory of Eriksen is that goal at Wembley against Inter at the end of 2018! It’s not Jose’s fault that our club has gone from having the best wing back play in Europe a few seasons back (in Walker/Tripps and Rose/Davies) to having an utter disaster now in the shape of Aurier, a loaned out KWP, and a ‘will they or won’t they develop’ Sessegnon and Tangyanga. Admittedly where I do strongly criticise Jose’ is for persisting with Aurier, just as Poch did, but Poch had and then ‘lost’ Trippier after mind-numbing criticism from so-called fans and just one ‘under achieving’ season. Yet Tripps’ one poor season was still far better than Aurier’s best ever season at this club! Selling Tripps at that time ranked with the stupidity of selling Walker one season too soon when we shifted to Wembley! And not even Billy Nick would have been capable of bringing the best out of Lamela after seven seasons! The Argentine’s third season was his best and he was brilliant at times, the rest have been mediocre and/or injury stricken, as he’s continued to float like a butterfly and sting like one. So there we have it. And no, I’ve never been a huge fan of Mourinho, and I’m aware of the failures and indiscretions of this once mighty but proven manager, the special one, yet I’ve long admired his huge successes and loftiness in the football entertainment business. His bluster and thin veneer is not endearing, nor his subtle blame shifting, but his ‘dare I say’ vulnerability makes me warm to him ..and he was invited to manage our club whether rightly or wrongly! He might not prove a Spurs ‘fit’ but I tell you that this man once admired Spurs greatly from afar, when he was managing Chelsea and United! He appreciated the football we played, and eventually he waited for the chance to come here, when he could have gone anywhere else in Europe or the World. But on arrival he has quickly discovered a squad seriously wanting, despite a world class stadium and training centre! So we owe him his chance to put things right, and to find that Porto mojo again on lesser funding than the the Reals/Juves/Uniteds/Chelseas of this worldl! He might not lead us to Glory with attacking football, but this is a journey for Jose’ as well as us, and I don’t believe he will let us down; although I accept he’ll only have next season to prove that. I only hope that Levy and Lewis, and our players, and all the fans, back this man to the hilt! COYS

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  12. Feeling gloomy. Nothing has changed all season. Two problems which we are unable to resolve are (a) how to unpick an organised opponent with packed defence, post-Eriksen and (b) how to organise ourselves and defend against such teams which make quick transition into attack.

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