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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Has Jose Mourinho Finally Turned The Corner At Tottenham Hotspur?

The two-week international break came at the worst possible time for Tottenham Hotspur. Jose Mourinho and his players ideally would have preferred not to have had to wait so long to build on the landmark 6-1 away win over Manchester United. Nonetheless, there is a sense Spurs may have finally turned the corner under the Portuguese coach.

At first, Mourinho looked to be an awkward fit for Tottenham. While his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino had build a dynamic, modern side in his own image, Mourinho is a renowned soccer conservative. The appointment of the 57-year-old just 12 months after his sacking at Manchester United gave Spurs managerial whiplash.

Now, however, there are some signs Mourinho is changing Tottenham Hotspur’s identity and culture. The 6-1 demolition of Manchester United provided the clearest evidence yet of this, with the visitors to Old Trafford relentless in their high press and running of the channels. Spurs could have scored more than six. 

As recently as the opening weekend of the new season, Tottenham appeared set for another difficult campaign. Since the 1-0 home defeat to Everton, however, Mourinho’s men have responded well, heading into the international break on the back of successive league victories. The manner of their performances have been even more impressive than the results.

Mourinho can have no complaints over a lack of backing from his employers, as he did towards the end of his time at Manchester United. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has more than once spoken about the Portuguese as one of the best two managers of his generation. For Levy, that Spurs were even able to lure Mourinho was a symbol of the club’s growth.

Levy delivered Mourinho the players he wanted over the summer transfer window, with no fewer than six new players arriving at Tottenham. Two new full backs were required and so Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon were signed. Mourinho desired a new midfield pass master and so in came Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. In Carlos Vinicius, Spurs found a back-up striker to offer cover and competition to Harry Kane, while Gareth Bale provided some attacking star dust on loan from Real Madrid. 

“The team is the most important thing and Gareth is here to help the team, but at the same time we care about about him,” Mourinho said after his star addition, teasing his debut. “So the decision we are going make is going to be for the good of the team, but also for him. It is very important he has a happy season with us at this moment in his career.”

Many of these players have still to be integrated into the Spurs team, but Mourinho has already instilled his values and principles in the squad he inherited. He stands a good chance of doing so with the new arrivals too. The Portuguese has won hearts and minds in the Tottenham Hotspur dressing room. Players are willing to fight for him again.

At the time of his appointment last year, Mourinho needed Spurs more than Spurs needed Mourinho, which is saying something given the North London club were slumped in 14th place in the Premier League
table. The Portuguese’s reputation took a battering at Manchester United, with many doubting he would ever bounce back.

There is still some way to go before Mourinho can claim to be back at the cutting edge of management, but he is proving answers to some difficult questions. Tottenham Hotspur are close to being a true reflection of their manager. Many claimed Mourinho would have to change his ways to be a suitable Spurs boss, but Spurs have in fact changed to be a suitable Mourinho team.

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