5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham

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Right or wrong, Daniel Levy has replaced Mauricio Pochettino with Jose Mourinho in North London, and now the real work begins for Tottenham Hotspur.

[ MORE: Is Mourinho the right man for Spurs? ]

With the club sitting 14th in the Premier League table and on a run of five league matches without a win, owning just three Premier League victories all season, there is a clear sense of urgency at Spurs that Mourinho has come in to fix as soon as possible. So what are the keys to Mourinho’s success at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium? A breakdown of what he must do to pull Spurs out of the doldrums.

1) Commit to an identity

Mauricio Pochettino’s success at Spurs came from a clear identity – a ragged high-press that put opponents under pressure and caused turnovers in midfield. He committed to a style of play and never wavered. Things began to fall apart only when the players began to struggle with the tactics and results spiraled, causing the locker room to drop ever so slightly in its commitment to the cause.

[ MORE: Pochettino pays for Levy’s mistakes ]

Mourinho must restore that full level of player commitment, choosing whatever identity he feels will fit the club best. Mourinho’s best years at Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Inter came when he installed a preferred approach and doubled down. Things went wrong at Manchester United when Mourinho couldn’t seem to commit to a preferred starting lineup and supporters never truly bought into the style of play. He must develop an all-in approach as quickly as possible.

2) Sort out Christian Eriksen

The biggest player conundrum for Mourinho to unlock is Christian Eriksen. The 27-year-old attacking midfielder has been a shell of his former self this season, unable to contribute consistently in the Tottenham build-up. Mourinho has two choices: commit to fixing the Danish playmaker, or get rid of him and move on. Either choice has its positives and negatives, but he must commit to one and soon.

Eriksen has just one goal and one assist so far this season, a paltry haul from his previous contributions, including just last season when he bagged eight goals and 12 assists in Spurs’ push towards a top four finish. If Mourinho thinks his best days are behind him, that decision must be made soon to develop a plan forward. If Mourinho thinks Eriksen is just in a funk, getting him out of the rut is of the utmost importance.

3) Restore order

The club is in true crisis mode. If it wasn’t there already with the lack of results, Daniel Levy made sure to reach panic mode by choosing the nuclear option at manager. Mourinho’s biggest task ahead will be to return the club to a sense of calm. Even if the top four is already out of reach – Spurs sit 11 points back of fourth-placed Manchester City but just four points behind fifth-placed Sheffield United – order can be restored with a few solid results.

While the Premier League table might already be a lost cause, the Champions League is most certainly not. Sitting second in Group B, the remaining two fixtures with Olympiakos and Bayern Munich are absolutely critical to Mourinho’s early tenure. Crashing out of the Champions League will give supporters little choice but to focus on the Premier League disaster, while another Champions League run could call back echoes of last year’s miracle charge. European play is now more important than league results once the initial panic has been relieved.

4) Reinstate tenacity

To put it plainly, Spurs has been soft all season.

In a former strength turned glaring weakness, Tottenham has been putrid defensively this season. While the numbers aren’t exactly damning – 17 goals conceded is the exact same amount as third-placed Chelsea – they have conceded goals at the worst possible times. The club threw away winning positions in each of their last two matches, slumping to 1-1 draws with Everton and Sheffield United after going in front. They had a first-minute lead on Liverpool only to watch it slip away. They capitulated early to Watford and had to fight from behind. They conceded three to Brighton on the road. They tossed away a first-half lead in a loss to Leicester City. Mourinho must return the Spurs defense to its tenacious former self, keeping them from giving away cheap goals in critical moments of matches.

But that’s not all that Spurs has struggled with – they have also wilted in front of net with the opportunity to put games away or turn results on their head. The fact that Tottenham took so long to turn Watford’s early 1-0 lead around was troubling, while they failed to build on leads in the Everton and Sheffield draws. Since the start of September, Tottenham has scored more than one goal in a match just twice – both wins.

This team needs some teeth, and Mourinho is the right man for that job.

5) Establish a transfer market plan

Tottenham has a small squad crisis on its hands, as a whopping five players will see their contracts expire this summer, plus another four whose deals are out in the summer of 2021. Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen have fought back against new contracts for years now and seem happy to run out their deals. Jan Vertonghen‘s contract is up at the end of the season. Danny Rose and Eric Dier are approaching the final year of their contracts.

Mourinho has never been one to work together on a transfer market plan, but he absolutely must be on the same page as Daniel Levy to help guide this club through to the next generation of players. Whether the plan is to usher a mass exodus and navigate a full squad overhaul, or to broker new contracts where previously there was no hope, he must quickly work to shore up the festering wound.

Many of the players who are struggling this season can be tied to those in contract limbo. The performance on the field will be directly linked to what goes on behind the scenes. Is he up to the task?

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.