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Spurs and Mourinho seem Cuffed together, and Failure is no Option

Jose Mourinho Spurs

Right after the full-time whistle went, Jose Mourinho dashed off, probably not even shaking hands with opposition manager Frank Lampard (not that it should matter or mean anything) as he headed for the tunnel. There was urgency in the Portuguese’s movement, and while it would be a cruel joke to suggest that his exit had more verve than his Tottenham side did in the defeat at Stamford Bridge, it wouldn’t be wrong.

For the second time in four days, Spurs had been beaten, by a flattering one-goal margin, in a game in which they looked very much second-best with the opposition being superior but by no means out of this world. For the second time in less than a week, a strategy of hoping the game happens, and a chance fashions itself out by, well, chance, didn’t quite work out.

Chelsea were by no means great in their 2-1 win over their London rivals – the first time one team had done the double over the other in the league in 14 years – they didn’t exactly create that much, and questions still remain over their defending and game management under Lampard. But the Blues didn’t need to be at their best, they just needed to be okay.

And for all the baggage that this Spurs team had pre-Mourinho, that’s one of the problems; that you just have to be okay to beat a Jose Mourinho team these days. For all the issue of missing key players in Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min, and the state the team were in earlier in the season, that can’t adjudicate for the shambolic lack of creativity in the final third. That can’t excuse the fact that Spurs don’t really seem capable of invention, of coming up with anything, it’s almost like they rely on the fact that football being a 90-minute game means they’ll probably get a chance eventually.

Injuries to key players isn’t an excuse as to why the frontmen are so isolated and the attacks have no cohesion and coordination, and it sure doesn’t excuse the porous defending either. For all the vitriol and backlash Mourinho has had over the years, organising a defence was very much his thing. That was – at the very least – the one area you couldn’t knock him. That, and being the supposed ‘big-game manager’.

It’s why he’s almost loathed and loved, scorned and adored in equal measure, that’s what made him the game’s smug villain. It’s why football, particularly English football, remains attracted and addicted to the Portuguese, like a toxic boyfriend you can’t shake off. Yet at Spurs, those qualities don’t seem to exist. Most Spurs games have been chaos under Jose, with a handful of 3-2 wins and matches so open, if Jose Mourinho of 2005 was watching through a time vortex, he’d dismiss it as a ‘hockey score’ with disdain, and swear on his league titles that he’d never become that.

Even his well-known trait, or rather best-known trait, is fading. When Spurs set up to be defensive against Liverpool last month, it looked a matter of time before the Reds took the lead, as Spurs relied less on defensive organisation and more on desperate last-ditch tackles and clearances off the line. When Spurs sat deep against Manchester City at the start of this month, only City could explain how they weren’t three goals up before Spurs inexplicably won 2-0. The same goes for games against RB Leipzig on Tuesday and Chelsea this weekend.

Jose Mourinho Spurs
Tanguy Ndombele for Spurs in their defeat at Stamford Bridge

The outcome may have varied slightly, but the outlook is very much the same. For a team coached by a manager renowned for being so defensively compact, Spurs have looked open, disjointed, and a tad chaotic. It’s rather easy to get in behind them, as it’s easy to find spaces in front of them; Chelsea had three bites at the cherry before the first goal, while Marcos Alonso was in acres of space for the second. Spurs pulled a goal back, but it came because they had to throw things forward and chase the game, not because of any creativity or well-worked plan in attack. Same goes for the defeats at home to Liverpool and Leipzig, a late surge came via a sense of urgency, and no planning; Spurs’ desperate hopelessness in those games reminiscent of teams in the past trying to break down a Jose Mourinho side.

The warning signs have been there for almost five years now, and Spurs took a gamble after ditching Mauricio Pochettino in November. The argument is Mourinho is a spent force, and every game that goes by, the word is ‘of course he’s a spent force, didn’t you see the past few years?’ The argument is Spurs made a mistake, and every game that goes by, the word is ‘of course Spurs made a mistake, didn’t they realise that he’s a spent force?’

But this is the conundrum Spurs are in now. Keep Mourinho, and let the dreary malaise go on, and get labelled clueless and guilty of dragging the club behind. Ditch Mourinho, and go for someone else, and admit that this whole thing was a huge mistake in the first place, that his appointment was based on little other than the fact Spurs have Jose Mourinho. So, this has to work.

So, Spurs and Jose are stuck with each other, like two prisoners handcuffed together who try to break out of jail; maybe they’re better off apart and stand a better chance of progress separated, but now is not the time to find out; just roll together and try to escape. Failure is not an option in this project, even when success is looking increasingly remote.

Kunle Ajao126 Posts

Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not


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