Mourinho’s Tottenham and their March madness

Spurs would rather like to erase March 2020 from their calendars

Eric Dier's reaction (video)

An FA Cup loss on penalties to Norwich City, a tame draw to Burnley in the Premier League (Matchday 29) and now having been dealt a knock-out punch by RB Leipzig has put the Londoners in a foul mood. A mood that Spurs fans thought couldn’t get worse after Eric Dier’s reaction to his brother being insulted. Dier inexplicably entered the stands and dealt with the abuse in a manner that cannot be condoned (video attached). The England international is seen assaulting one of the fans after the Norwich City FA Cup tie and has only heaped more pressure on his teammates and worst of all his manager.

How would Jose Mourinho respond to the consistent upheaval within his squad? One would assume with a well thought out tactical plan to progress in the Champions League, of course.

The 1-0 first leg defeat screamed for a more defensive set-up against an RB Leipzig side that had scored 62 goals in the Bundesliga and thumped home eleven goals in the UEFA Champions League, before the second leg on Tuesday evening. Tottenham had conceded eight goals in their last four Premier League games and if anyone could get a side ravaged by injuries to abide to the simple principles of defending and then counter-attacking it would be Mourinho.

Instead what we saw was Tottenham try and beat RB Leipzig in an open, free flowing, end-to-end spectacle that without Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min would be all but an impossible task. Hugo Lloris’ goalkeeping mistakes aside, the space that was awarded to Marcel Sabitzer, Angelino and Timo Werner would have any defensive set-up struggling to come to terms with Leipzig’s attacking threat. Two quick goals and it would require another Lucas Moura inspired hat-trick for Spurs to progress to the next round. Unfortunately for their supporters, there was never any evidence of that happening.

And so last season’s UEFA Champions League finalists would be kicked out of the competition that Mourinho has won on two occasions with FC Porto and Inter Milan. His Inter Milan triumph is now over a decade ago and it has been six long years since Mourinho managed to get a team to the Quarterfinal stage of the UEFA Champions League.

After taking Chelsea to the Semifinals of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League, Mourinho has only reached the Round of 16 on three occasions. In 2014-15 Chelsea would not progress to the Quarterfinals because of the away goal rule. A 2-2 home draw in extra time against Paris Saint-Germain (3-3 on aggregate) was hardly a disastrous departure.

Season after season it has gotten worse for the trophy hungry manager, who has not won a UEFA Champions League knockout game since his Chelsea side beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on the 8th of April 2014. Jose’s Manchester United side reached the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 in 2017-18, Sevilla won 2-1 at Old Trafford to progress. In his last eight UEFA Champions League knockout matches he has lost four and drawn four. His teams have scored five goals and conceded twelve in those encounters.

No EFL Cup, no FA Cup and now no UEFA Champions League; has Jose Mourinho run out of ideas? He is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds to have stamped his football ideology on the teams he has worked with but it seems as if his strategic thinking needs some reloading. The Portuguese manager certainly needs to start changing the manner in which he re-builds squads seeing as Tottenham have historically not been big spenders. The importance of him doing so will not only be for Tottenham’s benefit but also his own.

With every season that is deemed a failure by fickle football fans and after every UEFA Champions League knockout stage defeat Mourinho’s stock is dropping. For his sake I hope he doesn’t continue to revert back to naming and shaming players publicly and starts rethinking his approach. It would truly be sad to lose a manager of his charisma. After all, should he fail at Tottenham, where would he go?

For Tottenham supporters, a season that promised so much has come down to a spot in the top four, they currently lie seven points adrift. A quick turnaround is most certainly needed against Manchester United on the weekend.

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Michael Ferger
See all posts by Michael Ferger