You may have missed it. Probably turned off the television in disgust. I don’t blame you. But as the camera panned towards the celebrating Dinamo players, it caught a fleeting close-up of Ledley King, slumped in his seat and close to tears. Ledley transcends the tactics, formations, the personnel, because he feels it, and expressed what this abject capitulation means to all of us. Fans that is, not apparently to all the players, judging by their efforts.
A full post-mortem is required. For the moment, everybody involved has to accept a measure of responsibility. But this dreadful week exposed the truth, that at the core of the club lies not a beating heart but a toxic, rotting mess.
This week, we offered two disorganised, ill-disciplined and uncommitted performances in games where our very best was required. As a team and as individuals, nobody emerges with any credit. If you’re not playing well, at least run back, a couple of hard yards to defend, beyond so many of them last night. Inexcusable. And once again, Spurs sat back rather than aim to dominate periods of play.
Lloris confirmed this during the most revealing post-match interview I can recall. Describing the defeat as a disgrace, he stated that there is no togetherness in the team, that some do not follow the manager’s instructions and that those outside the starting team are not committed.
Tottenham always on my mind, and my mind is running away along rabbit-holes of analysis and blind alleys of interpretation. One day, The Lost Blogs will surface from an unemptied recycle bin to be clandestinely circulated among the diehards, like a Dylan bootleg from ’69. A glance at social media shows the fanbase is argumentative and irritable too. For now, this is what I know.
Mourinho was never the right man for Spurs. We needed someone able to rebuild a depleted squad over time, albeit one with potential, on finite resources and little in his admirable CV suggests he could do that. Levy was dazzled by his aura and reputation.
I wanted to be proved wrong.
After nearly 18 months, Mourinho has made no significant improvements to our performances. There have been highs and lows but no upward curve.
Spurs were failing over the final months of Pochettino’s time at the club, when his messages no longer inspired a group of players who should be grateful for what he enabled them to achieve. Mourinho has failed to create anything substantial to take its place.
It is not clear what Mourinho is trying to achieve. The NLD was one of those games were we as mere fans struggle to comprehend what the manager and players are thinking. Passive from the start against opponents not known for their defensive expertise. AFC players may as well have had a police escort down our right, the way they were repeatedly allowed through. Mourinho tries out different permutations. He looks like a rookie manager feeling his way. I had a brief conversation on Twitter to this effect with journalist Seb Bloor. Someone retweeted some of our tweets as part of the conversation, except by accident these were from months ago, expressing similar frustration yet they fitted perfectly. In Seb’s words, good and bad days but overall a zero-sum situation.
The home NLD, ultra-defensive but the players were highly motivated. The contrast with last Sunday could not have been greater. The players must take some responsibility for this. There are problems, but the committed leave those in the dressing room. If this were happening at another club, you’d see it for what it is, manager and players poles apart.
Players are professionals. Give everything and fans won’t complain. Holding back is unacceptable. Play with pride, if not for the manager then the shirt, and yourself.
Mourinho staked the house on the EL and the League Cup. He was right to do so. Spurs can score goals, and so we always have a chance in cup matches. Last night was a bitter blow. The odds were in our favour and we lost.
The League Cup is worth winning in and of itself. City are favourites but it’s a two horse race. Go for it. Enjoy it. Just remember that winning the League Cup won’t change anything. It won’t heal the malaise within the club. It is meaningless in terms of the future. The League Cup is often cited as a stepping stone in the building of a winning mentality, with Guardiola the best example. Except, City went on to win the league that same year. We won’t. Pep is still at City, building and rebuilding. Mourinho doesn’t hang around that long. Pep has
The best leaders take people with them. They motivate towards a common goal that will develop individuals through collective action and responsibility. Mourinho takes some players with him but neglects those he leaves behind. At say, Chelsea or Inter, that didn’t matter as much because of the quality of those he chose. At Spurs, we can’t afford that. He has to keep those who are not his favourites onside. In the here and now, he has to develop players because Levy won’t replace the squad wholesale. We need those players because we’ve played more matches than any other top side in Europe. Judging from Hugo’s comments, there’s a rift in the group.
In the here and now, Mourinho has to improve the team but there’s little evidence he is able to do so. Over the last couple of months, he’s said the players aren’t responding to him. Again, players have to take some responsibility for that but, right now, it’s an admission he’s not getting through to them and cannot effect change. He was brought into the club to give the team a winning mentality.
I cannot see how Mourinho can stay.
I cannot see Levy dismissing him before the end of the season.
And so we end once again with Daniel Levy. There’s a huge problem embedded deep within the club that goes beyond individual players and managers. Tottenham has become a fractious, conflict-ridden and unpleasant place to be. He has to take action to fulfil our potential and safeguard the future.
I concluded my last piece with a warning of what is at stake this summer. The squad has gaps. We need better players in key positions, notably centre half and deep-lying midfield. Harry needs a back-up. Plus, several squad members are in their thirties and their best years are behind them. Now we have to also weed out those who do not want to improve and be committed to the shirt. This is a big undertaking.
At the risk of labouring the point, I believe Spurs are sleepwalking towards the cliff edge. Building and rebuilding a team is a constant process. Complacency created by 15 years of top six and more is blinding us to what is necessary to sustain this.
This has been a bad week. Sometimes, for optimistic realists like me, being in a bad place focuses the mind. I’m worried about the future. The wrong move now by Levy could set us back several years compared with rivals. Always one step up and two steps back. I want to be wrong.