Home » More Combinations Than A Hatton Garden Safe: How Mourinho Failed To Unlock Spurs
More Combinations Than A Hatton Garden Safe: How Mourinho Failed To Unlock Spurs
By Harry Hotspur -
My thanks here to James Seymour who’s been sorely missed as an occasional contributor, and this look back at Mourinho is another cracking read.


And so Mourinho’s rather brief tenure at Tottenham comes to end. One is tempted to draw comparisons to George Graham’s time at the club and his being dismissed whilst the team was in the semi-final of the FA Cup. The other comparisons between the two seem obvious enough to avoid having to write them here so I will spare you that. I’ll also spare you talk of how the club is run at boardroom level or any mention of European Super Leagues, stories for another time.

Standard Mourinho?

There has been no shortage of people with their knives out for Mourinho and it is difficult to make a case for him having added much to this Tottenham side in his eighteen months in charge. His defensive tactics and divisive personality were always going to be an issue at Tottenham where cult figures include pure breeds like Glen Hoddle, David Ginola, Dimitar Berbatov and Luka Modric (Before the ‘me hate chicken badge’ affair, at least!) But Mourinho has been rather understated by his own standards and Tottenham’s most successful period this season came with perhaps their most defensive line up. So exactly what did go wrong for the man once labeled the special one?

Searching for the Right Formula

It certainly wasn’t through a lack of trying that Mourinho failed. He went through six different formations as he searched for the winning formula to consistently triumph in games. 

He began life playing a 4-2-3-1 formation with Alli playing close to Kane which lasted up until the Everton game at the start of the season. After initial success with the formation, Tottenham have consistently left a man short in central midfield, leaving Alli and the formation itself obsolete. The team could not cope with a man less in midfield however talented their attacking quartet was.

Brief Success

That led us into the most successful period of Mourinho’s reign playing 4-3-3 with Sissoko and Højbjerg in front of the back four. Whilst the football wasn’t always entertaining results were good in all competitions as Mourinho juggled his options successfully and whilst the early (unrealistic) title hopes evaporated Tottenham were going well with the squad they had. 

Indeed, two of the team’s biggest weaknesses, Sissoko’s lack of quality in possession and Bergwijn’s failure to contribute goals or assists as a wide man seemed to have solutions within the squad with Winks, Lo Celso, Bale, Lamela and Lucas all waiting in the wings to provide something different. There was plenty of room for the team to evolve whilst using the same formation and so it promised to be an exciting second half to the season. 

The More Things Change

Mourinho didn’t agree however. Following a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Fulham in which Sissoko was deployed on the right side of midfield we switched formations to a 5-2-3 system. That led to defeats against Liverpool and Brighton but in late January Tottenham were still in a strong position, in all of the cups and with a record of nine wins, six draws and four defeats in the league. Not too shabby. 

The biggest problem with the 5-2-3 formation was that it left the team a man short in midfield. N’Dombele, talented as he is, is never going to relish being outnumbered numerically. It is hard enough getting him to match the work rate of his opposite number! This makes it all the more confusing that when Mourinho gave up on 5-2-3 he went to something of a 4-2-4 formation with Bale, Kane, Lucas and Son all playing. A man short in midfield. Next came 4-4-2. Still a man short in midfield. 

The End

And so by the time Mourinho and Tottenham parted they still had the same problem as that which had troubled them in the first game of the season. One which had seemingly been solved once already. One of the great tacticians of the 21st century having failed to address the most obvious of issues. Fixing Tottenham’s defense without adding new personnel may have been impossible but matching teams up in midfield? That shouldn’t be so difficult. 

Perhaps Mourinho doesn’t feel the midfield options are good enough but with Højbjerg, Skipp, Sissoko, Winks, Alli, Lo Celso and N’Dombele all available he had a variety of players all capable of contributing at Premiership level. Whilst the obvious shortfalls in this squad means that Mourinho should not take all the blame for some disappointing displays this term, there can be little argument that he is no closer to being successful with this squad than he was at the start of the season or than Pochettino was before him. That would not have changed with a League Cup win. If Tottenham are to spend big this summer would you trust him with the money over another manager? If they’re not going to spend big can you see them improving under him next season? 

What Next?

If like me your answer is no to the above questions you will understand his departure. Mourinho moves on and for me at least I wish him all the best. It didn’t work out and now it’s over. If the previous form is anything to go by it seems likely that Levy already knows who our next manager is going to be whether it is announced now or at the end of the season. 

Whoever Levy chooses to appoint, let’s hope that it is someone whose approach reflects the traditions of the club. If the game is to be about the glory again at Tottenham Hotspur, that glory is going to need to be brought by the new manager. Fingers crossed!

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Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago

Along with death and taxes, there is seemingly another certainty in life if you happen to be a Spurs manager: the sack!

Is Gascoigne gonna have a crack?
Is Gascoigne gonna have a crack?
8 months ago

That detailed piece has just exposed one way the Premier League works. Why indeed did Jose give up on a successful formula? Other elements are in play here….Citys 7th title being a large one. The effin league is fixed. Cue Shakespeare…..”…………”

England Mike
England Mike
8 months ago

I was one who joined the happy clappers that despite having doubts, believed that this man would be the man who finally turned this club into a winner.
What I learned as we went along for the ride was that Mourinho has issues in his own character and personality that affected his judgement on a professional level, in which he made decisions that were personal and not based on what was best for the team or the player.
It always seemed to be about him and something in his make-up that meant he liked or disliked you as a person, which is impossible when working with young men who although professional still have their own personalities, he simply could not separate his professional and personal feelings imo.
The point made about the midfield is one I have also stressed previously.
The whole situation is one hell of a mess and everyone knows where the blame lies, yet he goes on without a conscience or a care in the world.

Elevenstonedidiots
Elevenstonedidiots
8 months ago

At times it was hard to see what the game-plan was with Spurs under Mourinho. There were so many disjointed performances. It seemed we would go from low block counter-attacking team one week to a half-assed high press team the next leading to inconsistent performances.
The squad lacked quality but he had a full pre-season to set work on a formation and game-plan with the team and perhaps he would have been better off sticking to one approach rather than chopping and changing. I believe the handbrake came on after we threw away a 3 goal lead against the Hammers. He lost trust in some of the players after that.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago

The only time where he’s had to go into a job and largely have to work with what he was given and what was there. A task facing most managers when they take a job.

However, as Jordan said last week on TalkSh*te Jose is a manager you need to bank roll, so what Levy though he was playing at I have no idea.

In fact I don’t think he knows either when it comes to football or cares, managers and coaches are just an interchangeable cog, quite low down in the investment business structure…

England Mike
England Mike
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

Mourinho simply could not cope at a Burnley or Brighton, he just couldn’t do it.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  England Mike

I think he had a formula at one point which brought him huge success but unless all the stars align in the way he could make them do in the past, that it’s not really applicable in the now.

All great managers have their day and it’s for a reason, the world moves on and you have to move with it. He had a fine run, why do people expect him to be as good as he was forever? There is no precedent for it, just accept that he’s not as effective as he once was, why is that so hard to process?

JimmyGrievance
JimmyGrievance
8 months ago

I think Jose’s managerial career is over now. We’ve broken yet another manager. Denying him the opportunity the lead the team to potential victory on Sunday is just nasty. But then, Levy knows naff all about football so it matters not to him.

Whoever’s up next will meet the same end as the previous 22 managers. We are stuck in a revolving door and it’s pretty sad to see there’s no getting out of it anytime soon.

Dan
Dan
8 months ago
Reply to  JimmyGrievance

He’ll go back to Sky as a pundit I think. I don’t think the appetite is there to manage again.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Who’d take him now, after three P45’s in a row? China, the UAE perhaps?

JimmyGrievance
JimmyGrievance
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

We’re the only club he failed at despite the P45’s. Only Spurs could break the games most successful manager. Not really the badge of honour I’d want pinned to
my chest.

Last edited 8 months ago by JimmyGrievance
Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  JimmyGrievance

Yes, he didn’t really do as badly at Man Utd as is popularly believed until things began to fall apart in the third season when their board decided to back Pogba rather than their manager. Jose shouldn’t have made it such a public spat, though.

He won two rather marginal trophies the first season and was second (and runners-up in the cup, too) in the league to an outstanding and well established force in Man City the following season. Hardly disgraceful.

Ferguson didn’t win a trophy with United until his FOURTH season in charge; a third round draw away at Clough’s Notts Forest seemed possibly the end of the road for Fergie and I think they needed three games to beat Oldham in the semi final and a replay in the final to beat Palace. In 1992, shortly after United finished 2nd to Leeds, I was watching cricket at Worcester and an elderly Lancashire fan told me the problem with United was the MANAGER! I wish I’d seen him again some years later! The following season, Ferguson’s SEVENTH, they finally won the title and the rest is history, as they say. Yes, he was allowed FOUR YEARS to win a trophy and SEVEN YEARS to win the title! I believe United finished 11th on two occasions before the breakthrough was achieved.

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago

Ferguson would probably have been sacked by Levy!

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago

Without doubt.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  JimmyGrievance

He failed at Utd, he didn’t get them where they wanted to be. Sure, he won the League Cup and the Ropey but things didn’t improve from there.

Manure spend about 300m a year more than us on wages than us, just to help with a bit of perspective… If he didn’t fail in the eyes of the owners then why was he sacked?

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  Dan

No, perhaps that’s what it is, that he’s lost his appetite for managing; he’s certainly of an age where that could be coming into play and where perhaps he has achieved enough that his ambition is sated.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago

I think he’s simply run out of ideas that might work in 2021.

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  JimmyGrievance

Yes, I think he’s finished like his most obvious counterpart from the past, the pragmatic, safety first, inventor of catennacio. egotistical Helenio Herrera essentially was after the 1967 European Cup Final. The end, when it comes, can be sudden and unexpected; remember Clough’s final season with Forest (I think he was drinking heavily by then and certainly didn’t look a well man to me).

I’m not sure that I agree with those who say his tactical approach is out of date; I believe such an approach still works. I think it more likely that his man management skills are no longer relevant and needed modifying (funnily enough, there were times at Spurs when I felt he was trying hard – perhaps too hard – not to upset anyone); would Fergie’s hairdryer approach work with today’s heavily pampered stars who can’t take criticism, it often seems? A mistake of Jose’s, though, was to criticise his players in public; this should only be an occasional tactic.

The thing that has surprised me, though, has been Mo’s apparent loss of his well deserved reputation for making an inspired tactical switch or substitution in matches. Yes, he has been bankrolled in other jobs but if your team was leading at half time – or at least holding its own – against a Mourinho combination you were wary of his ability to change the course of events with inspired decision making. It helps, of course, if you have genuinely good players on the bench to perhaps effect changes.

I didn’t think it would work out at Spurs; it felt like one last pay day for a manager who, for whatever reasons, had lost his magic. I quite liked having him around, though, one found one’s eyes drawn to the dugout and this charismatic man and wondering what he was thinking and planning. He was always good copy, too, and would say something interesting. Goodbye, Jose and good luck in the future, but perhaps you should now stick to punditry where you could still entertain us.

JimmyGrievance
JimmyGrievance
8 months ago

Have you seen our bench 😂. There’s no inspiration sat there. Just more of the same dross that’s playing.

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  JimmyGrievance

I know, that’s basically what I was actually trying to say: that at other clubs when he wanted to change things he had the players to help effect those changes; at Spurs, he didn’t!

Sid34
Sid34
8 months ago

Same coach, different players… Same ending.

Last edited 8 months ago by Sid34
Paddio
Paddio
8 months ago
Reply to  Sid34

Same club, different coach….

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago

Pretty much sums it up, although his man management I would also call into question as being quite out of date.

He was always the wrong appointment, his approach was never going to fit in. This is after praising the squad highly when he came in. I wish him well too, but at the top level he seems to be a busted flush in 2021.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  Harry Hotspur

Did he say what Levy wanted to hear to get the job, i.e. that the squad was fantastic? Who knows. All we do know is that he came with untold experience as a manager, and as one that will shoot from the hip when required.

Therefore is judgement must have been badly letting him down in that case, he was positively glowing about the team. Someone posted up several pieces from the early pressers, its unequivocal.

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

Poch’s past achievements and Spurs’ performances under the Argentine (except in the last year of his reign) may have led to Mourinho thinking he was inheriting a better squad of players than he actually was. I wonder if he received a bit of a jolt when he started working with his new charges!

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago

So why sack Poch then?

Tappaspur
Tappaspur
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

You’ve $laged&slandered him from the moment he got here yet you wish him well!!!

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  Tappaspur

As a man yes, he’s a human being that I have never met personally. However I never felt he was right for Spurs and I and others have been proven to be correct. Blame whatever else we like, it was never going to work.

There weren’t even any fans in the stadium to voice any displeasure and it’s still happened so speak to your best mate Levy about why it didn’t work out. Got nothing to do with anyone else, just Baldy.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

I’ve also got a bit of time for the Portuguese, been there several times and they’re generally very easy to get along with.

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

Apparently in polls taken, the second biggest reason given for Brits emigrating to Portugal (after the sunny weather) was the Portuguese people themselves who are considered generally very easy to get along with.

They’re a little reserved at first (a friend of mine thinks that may be due to a British influence with the large number of expats over the years), not as IMMEDIATELY outwardly emotional as the Spanish or Italians (even the accent is often quite dry, sometimes to my ear sounding a bit Russian! Mourinho doesn’t exactly have the Shutta yer face voice of let’s say an Italian).

However, the Latin emotion is not far below the surface and ready to come out under stress (remember the Portuguese players attacking the ref after a penalty was given to the French and then, a couple of years later, losing it totally against South Korea. Of course, there was the famous battle with Holland but the Dutch started that with some excessive fouling of Ronaldo, in particular). In their shops, too, reflecting a general worldwide trend, there isn’t so consistently the unfeigned and genuine politeness that was once such a feature of the Portuguese. But, generally, a nice people, I’d say but then I’m a little biased having some Portuguese ancestry myself (a maternal grandfather – died in 1935 – brought up and educated in Portuguese Goa in India)

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago

Their players have on occasion been accused of behaving like England fans!

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

I’ve holidayed in Lisbon on ten occasions (last time, regrettably, not so happy as I got mugged by a fellow Brit my first night) and on my first visit in 1996 got to see a match at the old Estadio Da Luz. The game, I discovered some years later, was the second leg of their equivalent of our Charity Shield (something the Portuguese cousin with me had been unable to explain). Upholding my standing as anything but a good luck mascot, the famous “Eagles” of Benfica were stuffed at home 5-0 by Porto!

Tappaspur
Tappaspur
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

It was never gonna work with people like you pre judging him. He never stood a fkin chance.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  Tappaspur

What difference has I or anyone else made to the outcome? Jose doesn’t visit this blog, there weren’t even any fans in the stadium to boo 25% possession at home.

Levy has taken it upon himself to relive him of his duties because he wanted Champions League qualification and he has failed in that task two seasons running.

If you want to put it down to some kind of negative vibes and telepathic voodoo from his critics stopping the serial winner winning then that can be your own fantasy world.

However, if you perhaps started being more realistic, like questioning Levy’s antics and how Jose might have been hamstrung by them then I might understand where you’re coming from.

Seeing as you refuse to hold either Levy our Jose responsible for anything not going right, then I guess you have to resort to blaming negative vibes from football blogs etc. It’s ridiculous…

Tappaspur
Tappaspur
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

Oh shut up. People like you make me sick

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  Tappaspur

So what?

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

Actually, Eastie, I would say Mourinho did pretty well last season to drag us up to 6th.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  Tappaspur

Aww diddums to Jose, he’s had about 45m in wages and payouts out from the club to ease the pain.

If he was that sh*t hot he’d still be employed ffs…

makatiandy
makatiandy
8 months ago
Reply to  Tappaspur

I’m not sure that any fan comment or social media commentary has significant influence on any manager or management. Harry alerted us to the Levy agenda years ago and he is still doing what he does being teflon coated. Jose’s reign would have been impacted much more severely if there were fans at the stadium.
You have been the cheerleader for the slagging of Poch brigade. Apply your own standards to Jose’s reign. He won nothing.

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  makatiandy

In some quarters Pochettino not lifting a trophy became the reason to not question Jose whatsoever. Bonkers.

Tappaspur
Tappaspur
8 months ago
Reply to  makatiandy

I never slated him when he was our manager. That’s the difference

DavidIke
DavidIke
8 months ago
Reply to  Tappaspur

Easty has been proven correct by the facts. Reality is he didn’t last that long. If there had been fans in the ground you may have had an argument that it was the negative approach of most of the fan base towards him that scuppered his chances but that wasn’t what happened. I didn’t want him, but I also hoped very much to be proven wrong, like I hope most fans did. As always, to be fair to the man, the majority of the failings at the club belong at the top. He’s just the latest to carry the can. I don’t even know how I feel about it all anymore. While I do understand the arguments for the Super League stuff and think that as a club you’d rather be in than out. At the same time, it’s rubbing against my sense of what is and isn’t right. I can’t get the Manic Street Preachers song “If you tolerate this then your children will be next,” out of my head. I tolerated the Premier League and the continued moneyfication of sport, then came the CL and now this. I know if I choose to devote my time, money and energy to something other than football, it won’t make the blindest bit of difference to anyone but me. In the end every fan will have to make their own personal choices as to whether they continue to tolerate it. I don’t know how I feel yet, there still needs to be a lot of dust to settle before I truly do.

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  DavidIke

Well said, Davidike!

Paddio
Paddio
8 months ago
Reply to  East Stand

His initial brief would have been who could he get playing, the conversation with Dele in the Amazon documentary showed the real conversations that went on not just what was said in media interviews. Or did you want Jose to ‘throw players under the bus’ publicly on day one?

East Stand
East Stand
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddio

Well, look at the early pressers. It was more than just respectful stuff, he made a real point about how good the squad was. That’s the way it was…

Richard David Bernard Taylor
Richard David Bernard Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddio

I’ve heard one pundit say that he upset some of the young players and destroyed their confidence. One example given of this was his asking Alli whether it was him or his brother out there. I find this quite laughable; I thought that was actually rather a good approach and good man management and for a while Alli buckled down. I thought Jose was giving him a chance to prove himself.

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