|So, Jose Mourinho has gone. He lasted 17 months, some of which were the most challenging for football and for us all, but the fact that the team were not improving was probably the deciding factor in his dismissal.
Rumours abounded this morning when the news of him being sacked broke. From whether he opposed the formation of European Super League and wouldn’t take the side for training to it being too cold for him to go out on the practice pitches. But in the analysis, the results were what did for him. Ironic that on Sky’s coverage of the match at Everton on Friday, the first advert was a betting ad for Paddy Power games … featuring Jose. “We are all judged on results”, he says to the camera having stated early on in the piece that “Special is about consistency.” Perhaps in Paddy Power’s humorous way, they saw this coming and booked that slot especially. The wins over the Manchester clubs masked the poor record against “top six” sides and against other teams that Spurs have been beating regularly over the last five years.
The decision by Daniel Levy to sack Jose might have had some deeper-lying reasons. Rumours of Joe Lewis looking to sell the club might have been harbouring some truth that the stock of the club was being devalued by not qualifying for Europe and Mourinho talking about respecting the Europa Conference competition might not have gone down well. With the announcement that the club are hoping to be one of the founding members of the European Super League, they probably feel that they need to have a manager who will be one that players want to play for, with Jose having developed a reputation for falling out with players. The need to be competitive should the ESL come about also might have come into the equation, but the consideration of who was available must have been in the mind of Levy and Lewis. The number one target is probably Julian Nagelsmann of RB Leipzig and with Bayern Munich circling to snap him up for the vacancy left by the national team bound Hansi Flick might have pushed the removal of Mourinho further up the agenda.
It was a surprise that the decision came today, just two days ahead of a home game and six before the League Cup Final. What wasn’t a surprise was that it had been coming. The loss of winning positions that was most unlike his previous management positions. The defensive chopping and changing when all the defenders were fit and available. The lack of tactical acumen when it was most needed (Dinamo Zagreb away in particular). Jose did get the best out of Harry Kane, turning him into much much more than just a goal-scorer, but others have suffered at his hand. Sonny has looked less effective of late. Sanchez has gone backwards in terms of development, when Jose should have been mentoring him to play in the mould of some of his previous central defenders. Doherty was a player he wanted, but we have rarely seen him play as his did with Wolves and Vinicius was usually thrown on as a Plan Z, hit the big man tactic.
The team that put Man United to the sword in that 6-1 win at Old Trafford and swept aside South Coast Big Club as Son ran wild played in a manner that we wanted to see Spurs play. Winning football, but played with pace and precision, taking the game to the opponent. Unfortunately, since those heady days, it has been much more reactive, with Tottenham waiting to see what happened before they were sparked into action, giving the opposition the initiative. Recent matches at Newcastle have seen Spurs going North with an attitude that possessed confidence in bringing the three points back to London. This season, it was a nervy performance that inevitably let them in for a late equaliser, whereas the few second half chances created were scant intention of going out to kill off a game and that has been a problem for most of the season. Mourinho’s cautious approach cost Spurs points. Points which could have had us comfortably in the top four this season. And players may well have been happy with playing his way if that had been winning football, but it wasn’t turning out that way.
There is no doubt that some of the players have to take some of the blame. Many of them the same players that got Pochettino the sack and while Mourinho’s statement of “Same Coach, Different Players” was designed to be shifting the spotlight off him, there is a little truth to it and much has been said today about the quality of the squad that inherited not being quite as good as he thought, for all the platitudes he uttered on taking the job. That squad may have been better had he not decided to isolate some players from getting much first team playing time.
Danny Rose had already been side-lined by the time Mourinho arrived, but this was allowed to continue, leaving a nasty undercurrent running outside the group. Dele Alli (and not his brother, as Jose quipped in “All Or Nothing”) was discarded at the start of this season and made only fleeting uninspiring cameos, which was not surprising when he was pushed out. Harry Winks the same, where he is not always flavour of the month among some Tottenham supporters, but there was a need to stiffen up the defensive midfield at times. Bringing in Gareth Bale might not have been what he wanted, but having worked on the continent, he should have been used to working with what was given to him and it was probably made clear to him when he was hired that this would not be a project like that at other clubs he has been in charge of. At least he rehabilitated Tanguy Ndombele and got him playing, but you feel there is still a fair percentage more that can be got out of our record signing and maybe the new man can do that.
You don’t know how much it was the way the players were asked to play, but there was something less than exciting about Spurs during the Mourinho tenure. Maybe he was fortunate that the Covid-19 pandemic prevented fans attending most of the matches, otherwise we could have witnessed the toxic atmosphere that filled the Emirates for much of the last three years. Players seemed inhibited and the effectiveness of some of them was reduced as they did not look like they were playing with any freedom or didn’t understand their role in the side.
The original appointment of Mourinho had the Martin Jol situation stamped all over it. Unaware of what was going on around him, Juande Ramos came in as Daniel Levy had been recruiting him in the background to take over a few days later. Pochettino’s replacement was in the manager’s office even sooner and the Amazon documentary makers were obviously prevented from using much of the footage of Mauricio’s exit. It all made for good TV, with the players’ genuine shock when they found out who the new manager was going to be. This time, it appears that the exit might not have been as well planned, with no hint as yet, who the long-term (hopefully) successor to the Portuguese will be. Ryan Mason was given the responsibility of taking training this morning and rumours of him and Chris Powell taking the team for the remainder of the season, perhaps because their target would not leave at this point in the season.
Names are being thrown into the hat with Julian Nagelsmann and Brendan Rodgers being the two most often pushed forward. Diego Simeone may be too close to the Mourinho model to entice Levy into bringing him to the Lane, while Maximilliano Allegri could be an option. Others unlikely to be considered being named are Steven Gerrard, Eddie Howe, Scott Parker (although he could be one for the future), Ralph Hassenhutl, Maurizio Sarri, Antonio Conte, Nuno Espirito Santo and Carlo Ancelotti. Whoever the next incumbent might be, it is likely to be a big name who has been a proven winner. That was the idea with Jose, but a more modern approach will be looked for this time and while Mourinho did blood some of the promising youngsters we possess, the new boss will have to be aware of how they will have to work within the model that Levy is developing. Whether that will change with the European Super League on the horizon, where development of home-grown talent will no doubt be over-looked when immense riches are laid at the clubs’ doors. It is difficult to put money on who the new manager could be, as it is a project that doesn’t guarantee success and will need a fresh approach to bring the club’s players back to the level they reached in the Poch years.
Was employing Mourinho a bad fit in the first place ? Reverting to type, Mourinho failed to “Dare” enough and therefore, his failure to “Do” enough to change the way the side were playing or motivate the players sufficiently lead to his downfall. His demeanour when he signed with Tottenham was as the “Calm One”, but perhaps he took that too far. His attitude was quite laid back and his ranting at referees and fourth officials lacked the venom of previous years. Even the fact that he “Couldn’t care less” about Pogba’s comments about his man-management were contrary to his fiery nature. Perhaps he has lost the fire in his belly, but I expect that he will bounce back … maybe even at a European Super League club if it comes about, as he will want to be at the top table as much as the owners of the clubs do, although it may be as Portugal’s national manager. Wherever he pops up, his “Special” title will have had a little shine knocked off it.