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?

The 2 Robbies podcast: Liverpool, Chelsea through to UCL knockouts

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on Liverpool’s nervy 2-0 win against Red Bull Salzburg to take first place in Group E of the Champions League (1:55), Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille to secure a place in the Round of 16 (13:15) and who is the current favorite to win it all (20:45).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Plus, what Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-1 win at West Ham means for both London clubs (29:10) and the Robbies discuss what they’re looking forward to most at the next Live Premier League Mornings Fan Fest in Miami Beach (46:05).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

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The Premier League didn’t issue too many surprises at the bottom of the table this week, but two top-tier sides didn’t behave as such and shook up our rankings.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea and Man City have dipped low, and Bournemouth’s skid doesn’t have it sinking lower (yet) because of the teams beneath it.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — Liverpool and Manchester United are next, and it’s looking a long way back to safety.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

19. Norwich City — Outshot, out-passed, our possessed Sheffield United at home and still lost. Bad vibes, man.
Last week: 18
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

18. West Ham United — Just feels like there’s something lurking below the surface here. Doesn’t smell right given the Irons talent.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

17. Bournemouth — Losing to Liverpool is no shame, but it’s almost officially time to worry.
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Aston Villa — Tom Heaton is a heck of a goalkeeper but he can’t be expected to save four A-plus danger chances per game.
Last week: 14
Season high: 8
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

15. Southampton — West Ham and Villa back-to-back have to provide four points if Saints revival is to be believed.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

14. Everton — Duncan Ferguson gives the Toffees board reason enough to be patient with their managerial hire, and then Napoli goes and fires Carlo Ancelotti.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Burnley — The defending against Spurs — we know, Spurs are good — was enough to drop them far lower than four spots. Abject stuff from a Sean Dyche side.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle

12. Arsenal — Freddie Ljungberg started Nicolas Pepe, and Nicholas Pepe was his best player. Stunning stuff, really. Look at the assist below.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

11. Crystal Palace — I want to believe, but am holding out for something more. A derby win versus Brighton would suffice.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Watford
Up next: 2:45 p.m. ET Monday v. Brighton

10. Newcastle United — Again, Steve Bruce‘s men are getting tremendous Fortune and he’s pushing almost all the right buttons (It takes guts to start Andy Carroll over the struggling record signing Joelinton). This could be a sign of the Geordie Apocalypse.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

9. Sheffield United — A little wobbly lately, but still a good comeback at Carrow Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

8. Brighton and Hove Albion — Doesn’t it say something that a country who starves for young, strong English coaches had one sitting in Sweden for eight years? Graham Potter is legit.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

7. Chelsea — Some of those young guys who’ve played so well, so early, are looking a little ragged. It’s a shame Frank Lampard is still waiting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will really help things take another step.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

6. Manchester City — It probably has nothing to do with the system, and a lot to do with not having Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane… Still, it needs to be better than a home derby loss to a Paul Pogba-less United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Tottenham Hotspur — We’re gonna need multiple screens on Sunday morning, as Wolves-Spurs and Man Utd-Everton are both must-monitor.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

4. Manchester United — Ole’s at the wheel, and still doesn’t feel like Lewis Hamilton or anything but we’re not worried about heading off a cliff.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — Beat Spurs on Sunday and I’ll go ahead and bet on them as a Top Four finisher, even after the Brighton draw failed to deliver the goods.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Spurs

2. Leicester City — Wow.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

1. Liverpool — Wow, only atop the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

Champions League Weds. preview: Two spots remain

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Only two spots remain in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, and those will be settled Wednesday afternoon.

In Group C, hosts Shakhtar Donetsk need to beat Atalanta to go through, while the visitors can also go through with a win if Dinamo Zagreb fails to defeat Man City.

[ MORE: Ancelotti reportedly speaking w/ Everton ]

In Group D, Atletico Madrid is through with a win over Lokomotiv Moscow, though Bayer Leverkusen can complete a remarkable comeback from an 0-3 start to the group stage if they beat already-qualified Juve and Atleti loses to their Russian visitors.

You certainly wouldn’t be against Diego Simeone there, though.

“Tomorrow is a great opportunity, every day that you wear the Atletico shirt is,” Simeone said, via Marca. “I believe in my team, in the humility that they have at the moment. The results will come based on what they are demonstrating on the field.”

Premier League sides Man City and Tottenham Hotspur both have their fortunes settled, with City having won Group C and Spurs settled into Group B’s second spot, but they still have plenty to figure out on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs are going up against a Bayern team that walloped them at home, while City is living an unusual 2W-3D-2L lull in form.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action

12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta
Dinamo Zagreb v. Man City

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Red Star Belgrade
Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur

Ancelotti fired by Napoli as Everton, Arsenal lurk

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Carlo Ancelotti won a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, then lost his job.

The Napoli’s boss strained relationship with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis came to a head, with the Neapolitan side advancing in Europe to end a nine-match winless run.

[ MORE: Sporting KC adds Liga MX top scorer ]

That run may’ve included seven draws, but it also saw Napoli dip into seventh on the Serie A table. They are seven points back of sixth and 17 points behind leaders Juventus.

A strained relationship got worse when Ancelotti refused to take the team on a De Laurentiis-ordered “team retreat” following a draw against Salzburg in early November.

Gennaro Gattuso is rumored as Ancelotti’s replacement, and the fired coach himself is being mentioned as an immediate target for Arsenal and Everton.

In fact, the Toffees are in discussions with the Italian legend already, according to Sky Sports. Football Italia claims Arsenal is in on the action, too.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League with AC Milan twice and a third time with Real Madrid. He’s claimed domestic titles in five of Europe’s top leagues, with silverware at Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid.