Despite Tottenham Hotspur’s fans being left reeling after the team’s 0-0 draw with Bournemouth, it was soon all smiles as José Mourinho’s side triumphed in the recent North London Derby. It was a classic Mourinho performance, defending resolutely, limiting Arsenal to few chances, and making the most of their opportunities. When Toby Alderweireld headed home the winner in the 81st minute, it felt like a Mourinho masterclass of old.
The problem for Spurs is that those masterclasses have been few and far between since Mourinho took over from Mauricio Pochettino in November. A side that was struggling under Pochettino has continued to struggle under his successor, and Spurs are engaged in a real dogfight for European qualification, with the Lilywhites looking like outsiders with only a few games remaining. Although Champions League qualification is not quite out of reach, the recent news that Manchester City’s European ban will be overturned is not good news for the Spurs faithful.
Those betting on the Premier League will be wary of Tottenham’s unpredictability, with the team having recorded 14 wins, 10 draws and 11 defeats so far this season – a relatively even spread of results. Mourinho was brought in with the aim of making Spurs more consistent winners, to find ways to get the three points in matches where the team perhaps don’t play to their full potential. The win over Arsenal was a prime example of that in effect, but unfortunately there have been too many disappointing results to consider Mourinho’s tenure a success so far.
In Pochettino, Tottenham appeared to have a manager that was bringing the team forward season upon season. The club’s Champions League odyssey last campaign, in which they reached the final of the competition, was proof that the Argentine was making progress and the club was growing in stature. It could be argued that the decision to dismiss him after a poor start to this season was unnecessarily hasty.
But that is all in the past now, and the question lies in whether or not Mourinho still has the tactical acumen to make Spurs regular challengers in both the Premier League and Champions League. Their defeat to RB Leipzig in this season’s Champions League round of 16 was a worrying sign for a manager who was once considered one of the finest coaches in the world when it came to European football.
The style of football played under Mourinho has caused some concern among supporters, and although the Portuguese coach’s tactics worked beautifully against Arsenal, concerns linger over whether it is the most effective way for Tottenham to reach their potential. In an age where the top half of the Premier League table has never been more competitive, it’s important that Spurs don’t lose ground on their rivals, and don’t waste the strides that have been made over the last decade or so in terms of establishing the club as a regular in the Champions League places.
The coronavirus pandemic means that it is unlikely clubs will get a full pre-season in the conventional sense, and that will put pressure on Mourinho going into next season. He’ll need to find a way to get Tottenham winning consistently once again if he’s to avoid his spell in charge becoming as ill-fated as his last couple of managerial tenures.