Daniel Levy and Jose Mourinho have rolled the dice with the appointment of the Portuguese as manager of Tottenham. Seventeen months later, the bet has categorically not borne fruit for both camps, with the manager being incredibly sacked on Monday morning.
The shock was not in his departure but in the timing of it, a few days before the club’s Carabao Cup final with Manchester City at Wembley.
After all, Mourinho was brought in to the club to turn Tottenham into silverware winner – but with Spurs on track to finish outside the top four for the second season in a row, criticized for their football’s negativity and the uncertainty surrounding the ‘to come up. many key players, Levy drastically ended the project.
It’s a surprisingly quick move on the part of the Spurs president, given that in November 2019 he made the big decision to trade Spurs’ historic style and panache for a more ruthless advantage under manager Mourinho. that he had been targeting for a long time. . The goal was to turn Mauricio Pochettino’s overly nice almost-men into battle-ready winners.
But it was also a calculated risk on Mourinho’s side. After the damage caused by his tenure at Manchester United, he bet his reputation on a Spurs side he initially described as “very, very good” – but knowing he would not have the power to transformer purchase he had previously in old clubs.
At the end of it all, Levy faces Spurs fans rebelling in two failed campaigns, in which only fleeting moments of individual brilliance have illuminated an anti-ambition approach to the game unfavorable to risk. Still no major silverware and now no flair.
Add to that the contemptuous reaction from club supporters to Spurs’ entry into the European Super League and Levy’s popularity has plummeted.
Mourinho, meanwhile, is entering an uncertain future, certainly in Premier League terms.
Following his exit from Manchester United, he made some interesting comments about how the experience had led him to change his approach, only looking internally among his coaching staff for mistakes that they had committed and not to use external problems as an excuse.
But in recent weeks he had reverted to the reckless tactic of pointing the finger in every direction, but his own when his shortcomings over the past two seasons were evident.
Which club will now be ready to pay its high salary due to recent failures, declining winning percentages and the multitude of divisions and negativity it leaves in its wake?
Mourinho has fought hard to uphold his reputation – but his status as a modern day top manager is diminishing.
It is not cynical to say that the failure of these bets could be easily predicted. Granted, few Spurs fans would say they didn’t see this coming.
But perhaps the frustration is that, despite their underlying concerns, the majority of fans – and neutrals – were swept away by the hype and excitement over Mourinho’s arrival at Tottenham and the feeling that this unlikely partnership could bear fruit.
The first encouraging signs added to this sensation. Harry Kane has scored seven goals in his first 10 games under Mourinho, a rejuvenated Dele Alli has scored four of four. Perhaps, indeed, Mourinho’s tougher streak was what Spurs players had been missing from the start?
But the results quickly started to stutter, with injuries to Kane and Heung-min Son taking a toll. And then, the facade of Mourinho’s precocious positivity about the tools at his disposal started to fade. After Spurs left the Champions League for RB Leipzig, he openly wished the rest of the season away.
“If I could switch to July 1 immediately, I would,” he said. A brutal reality? Perhaps. An inspiring and encouraging message for the rest of the team to get them ready to take their chance? Certainly not. And from there, a negative trend towards the procedure began to bubble beneath the surface.
The following series of results only added to this gloom. There have been losses to Chelsea and Wolves, and an FA Cup home exit against Norwich. Spurs managed a point at Burnley, but their last competitive action came in Leipzig, where an overall rout of 4-0 was confirmed.
Lockdown brought a chance to cool off and with key players in good shape, Spurs ultimately ended the season strong, taking five wins and losing just one of their nine games after the restart.
Gareth Bale’s sensational summer arrival then added to the newfound optimism – and a reminder that Levy has racked up money in the transfer market to support Mourinho.
While the returning hero has been sidelined for much of the first half of the season, Spurs have been fueled by Kane and Son’s record-breaking bonding play as a counterattacking style synonymous with their manager gave remarkable results at the start of this campaign. .
There was the thrill of the comeback victory at Southampton and Manchester United’s 6-1 beating at Old Trafford, and in November 2000 Spurs supporters were in attendance to watch their side win the North London derby with just 30% of possession.
It was a new style for these fans to watch, but Spurs were leading the league. The Special One was back. At least as it seemed during that brief period.
Instead, when the fine margins fell against Spurs at Anfield in mid-December, he began a period of realizing that Spurs’ dependence on Kane and Son was too heavy and that, behind them, this defense was not strong enough to allow the opposition sides as well. much of the prom week after week.
A favorable Carabao Cup draw paved the way for Wembley, but elsewhere Spurs’ season has started to crumble.
Five defeats in six Premier League games in January and February made Tottenham a title contender for a side that was lagging badly in the top four.
Five straight wins against weak opposition have made Mourinho boast of his team’s 100 ‘negative’ goals this season, but the catastrophic collapse in the second leg of their Europa League first leg with Dinamo Zagreb has was one of the lowest moments in recent club history.
He ended a nightmare week after Arsenal, out of form, avenged their derby loss. Rabona’s goal from Erik Lamela in that game could have been one of Spurs’ best goals of all time, but his subsequent expulsion capped a capitulation.
Giving up points to winning positions has become the detrimental and defining trait of Mourinho’s tenure.
That summed up the approach: for Kane and Son to seize rare moments of attack, then rely on a fragile and ever-changing staff in defense to withstand increasing pressure.
The eight defensive players on the pitch against Everton in Mourinho’s last game in charge embodied him.
The style was negative, the mentality around him was negative and the response to every failure was negative – from the experts and from the team’s own manager.
This bitter mood off the pitch would have been a familiar atmosphere to many involved with Manchester United, as revealed in Paul Pogba’s remarkable recent interview with Sky Sports.
At Spurs, Mourinho fell out with Tanguy Ndombele last season, but while this midfielder responded positively, the manager’s treatment of Dele Alli this term had the opposite effect.
There were also his comments about Eric Dier’s “ crisis of confidence ” which raised eyebrows and led the manager to go back after the player rejected that view.
There was no excuse after a 2-2 draw at Newcastle, however, when Mourinho blamed his players for their mistakes, their lack of “profile, vision, poise, which belongs to the best players”, and even the white hair on his head. .
“They come with things that I’m not used to seeing in football matches at this level,” he said, in a remark that surely wouldn’t have gone well in Spurs’ dressing room. .
I have to be honest and say that I saw things on the pitch, not in terms of attitude but in terms of profile, vision, balance, which belongs to the best players, I haven’t seen in all positions.
Mourinho was trying to distance himself from the quality he was working with now. It was as seamless a reaction as his distraction techniques after the 3-1 home loss to Manchester United earlier this month, when his post-match comments were ridiculed even by Ole’s son Gunnar Solskjaer.
But dangerously, the results and the club’s leadership also risked alienating crown jewel Kane, who passed up the opportunity to entrust his long-term future to Spurs when asked about his next steps during the match. the international break last month.
Mourinho’s treatment of another top-quality player also contributed to his downfall.
Bale’s resounding return to the club last summer, on loan from Real Madrid, came with caveats. The Welshman was injured and had been deprived of first-team football for much of the previous campaign. But its quality is beyond doubt.
While the inability to maximize this costly investment was shared between Mourinho, Spurs and Bale himself, there was a feeling the manager had never trusted the forward.
A six-goal streak in six games in February and March, when Bale was finally deemed fit, seemed to signal a long-awaited return to form, but a poor performance against Arsenal would be his last start under Mourinho.
Bale was not seen on the pitch again after revealing on an international mission that his return to Spurs had been driven by a desire to be fit to play for Wales in the Euros this summer. Fans of the club might understandably feel annoyed by these comments, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that this once romantic comeback could have been much sweeter if handled differently.
Bale could still be a Spurs hero if he delivers a winning shot against Man City this weekend. And who knows, maybe the team can still close that top-four gap to save their season.
The odds are stacked against them, but sometimes improbable things can be achieved in football. However, for Levy and Mourinho their bet against Spurs turned out to be a costly mistake.