José Mourinho’s spell at Tottenham is not going according to plan.
Spurs are winless in six, having lost five of those games. They have crashed out of the FA Cup and the Champions League whilst fourth place is getting smaller on the horizon. They are on an abysmal run of form, but did it have to be this way?
Could Mourinho have prevented all of this woe? We’ve had a look at his five biggest mistakes as Spurs boss.
1. Picking a fight with Tanguy Ndombele
Everyone knows José Mourinho likes to pick fights with his players. Well, not all of them, but there’s always one or two at every club that he just won’t leave alone. Perhaps Mourinho thinks this is the way to get the best out of them, or maybe he’s just doing it to flex his authority. We’ll never know, but at Spurs it’s Tanguy Ndombele who has joined the likes of Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Iker Casillas and Joe Cole as Mourinho’s favourite victims.
And this is just absurd. Putting aside that being openly critical of players very rarely works in a positive manner, there’s the fact that Ndombele is Spurs’ record signing. The £62m midfielder was a huge coup in the summer as he joined Spurs ahead of bigger name clubs he was linked with, because they acted swiftly.
Now, he’s definitely struggled with injuries so far in England, but whenever he’s come on and played he’s consistently been Spurs best or second-best player. Ndombele may well be out of shape, but it’s the coach’s job to get him into shape so that reflects more on Mourinho than anyone else. Everyone criticised Romelu Lukaku for being overweight at Manchester United but when he joined Inter Milan they immediately had him lose the weight – so a competent coach (like Antonio Conte) would have addressed this ages ago.
Instead, Mourinho has picked a fight with one of his most talented players, a player who, when everyone is fit, has the talent to take Spurs to that next level they have been aching to reach. Instead now we have to wonder if he’ll even be at the club next season.
2. Playing Dele Alli out of position
Dele Alli scored four goals in Mourinho’s first four games as Spurs boss. The Englishman looked like he had been reborn under the Portuguese. Since that initial burst he’s scored… three goals in 20 games.
Now part of that is simple form, but Alli’s performances of late have been atrocious. After playing as a reactive second-striker in Mourinho’s earlier games, the Spurs injury crisis has seen Alli pushed further forward to be an auxiliary striker role.
Here’s the thing: Alli hates playing that role. The Englishman is a reactive talent, he works best with other players to play off, to react with. He’s England’s Thomas Muller and the German is another player with the build, athletic skill-set and goalscoring ability to, on paper, be a great striker. But he isn’t, and neither is Alli.
Spurs need goals, and Alli is a great source of goals. At least he could be if Mourinho were to play him in a role that would allow him the chance to do what he does best. But no, not Mourinho.
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3. The Goalkeeping situation
When Mourinho took over the job, Spurs captain Hugo Lloris was out injured so Paulo Gazzaniga was in goal. Fair enough. When Lloris was fit again, he was back in the nets. Fair enough again. But then things started to get nutty.
Lloris picked up a groin strain and missed a couple of games. One of those was the FA Cup tie against Norwich. Now, Gazzaniga was fit so he’d be an easy slot back into the role, right? Wrong. Mourinho, for some reason, recalled Michel Vorm.
Now Vorm hadn’t played a game in 18 months when Mourinho recalled him. There was no need to recall him, but Mourinho did, and he made a colossal mistake to gift Norwich an equaliser which eventually saw Spurs dumped out of the only competition they stood a chance of winning. Because of Mourinho.
He then compounded this by recalling Lloris immediately rather than letting Paulo Gazzaniga play. Lloris then flubbed a long shot to allow Burnley to score in his first game back, and in his second he let RB Leipzig score two soft goals to dump Spurs out of the Champions League.
Had Mourinho simply brought Gazzaniga back into the fold then Spurs would still be in the FA Cup and could quite possibly still be in the Champions League.
4. Not giving Troy Parrott a proper run
Going into “a gun fight with no bullets” was how Mourinho recently described the state of affairs in attack for Spurs. With Harry Kane and Son Heung-min injured, the club are without their two primary goalscorers.
Mourinho has lamented this fact at length. He’s tried Lucas Moura and Alli in that role, hoping for something to work out. What he hasn’t done is play Troy Parrott, an actual centre-forward from Spurs’ youth academy.
It’s absurd that Mourinho is always whining about the lack of a striker when he won’t play one in his squad. Parrott has three goals in two starts for Spurs’ u23 side this season and six goals in four starts in the UEFA Youth League – he’s joint-top scorer in the competition yet he can’t get a look in for the senior side even though they have literally no strikers.
Playing Parrott would not only be good because he is good but would once again give Alli a striker to play off, so you’d probably get him back amongst the goals as well. You’d still miss Kane and Son, but you’d maybe still be in two cup competitions.
5. Losing his identity
Mourinho used to be a ferocious competitor. You knew his teams would be impenetrable defensively. Hell, his Chelsea side still hold the record for least goals conceded in a Premier League season (15). Even this all-conquering Liverpool side, a side that are breaking just about every record going, couldn’t touch his.
Yet his Spurs side are basically a sieve. Since he’s been in charge Spurs have faced 240 shots in the Premier League – the fourth worst in that time. As a result Spurs have conceded 23 goals which is joint-sixth worst. And then, finally, they’ve kept just three clean sheets in his time in charge. Only three sides have managed fewer.
For a variety of reasons, Mourinho’s Spurs aren’t even capable of playing the most basic version of his style of football. That is ultimately the biggest mistake, because if his teams can’t even be authentically “him” then what can they be? What are they? They’re nothing. They’re slices of white bread left soaking overnight in warm water to be fed to birds and ducks. The blandest nonsense imaginable.
Ten years ago Mourinho’s Inter Milan faced arguably the greatest club side ever in the knockout rounds of the Champions League and conceded just two goals in two games, scoring three and winning the tie. Now, in 2020, his Spurs side conceded three goals in one game against Champions League rookies RB Leipzig, managed by a 32-year-old – albeit a talented one.
Mourinho has fallen from grace and landed flat on his face.