Tottenham feel like a Mourinho team now.
Whether you think that’s a good or a bad thing, it’s happening.
It has taken Jose Mourinho a while to settle in and shape this Spurs side to his liking, but the routine win against West Ham felt like he has made his mark and the draw against Man United last week also prove they can be more resilient than they’ve been so far this season.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Tight defending, clinical finishing and ruthless counters are all on page one of the Mourinho playbook. Tottenham did all of that to beat their London rivals and boost their UEFA Champions League hopes.
Defending has been an issue for many months and the shutout win against West Ham was just the fourth clean sheet during Mourinho’s 28 games in charge of Tottenham.
Asked by ProSoccerTalk after the game via Zoom about that defensive shape, Mourinho revealed how he’s been working on things during the suspension.
“We worked hard and we started that when we were only allowed to work in groups of five because of the period during lockdown when we could only work in groups of five,” Mourinho explained. “We chose, always, for the back four to be together and we worked a lot on that. In the past two weeks we did it collectively and I’m really happy that in these two matches we concede only one goal on a funny penalty and we managed to be really solid. I am happy with that.”
Part of that solid defensive unit was Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez, who started for the second game running at center back. Mourinho called Dier ‘perfect’ after the draw against Man United on Friday (despite him giving away a penalty kick for a clumsy trip on Paul Pogba) and this Spurs back four has the feel of a solid, reliable Mourinho back four.
We haven’t been able to mention the words ‘solid’ and ‘defense’ in the same sentence when talking about Tottenham for many, many months. Mourinho admitted Tottenham have to improve their attacking organization with and be “more consistent with our movements” and his side were a little clunky in attack.
Just as much as a stronger defensive unit proves this is becoming a Mourinho team, so too does a slightly disjointed and robotic attacking unit. As long as Harry Kane is leading that unit, it will deliver, as he was back on the scoresheet and Spurs will need that in their battle to reach the Champions League.
With Tottenham now six points off fourth-place Chelsea and one point off fifth-place Man United, they are back in the top four hunt and Mourinho.
“The three points were not important, they were crucial,” Mourinho said. “I told the players that at half time. Don’t think if you don’t win this match that we can still think about chances because tonight is three points or nothing. Three points for the mentality. Then great clean sheet, but was not just a clean sheet because sometimes you are really lucky in some moments and your goalkeeper was man of the match.
“It was a clean sheet based on consistency, dominance and of course in some period in the first half we were too slow and too predictable and we couldn’t break their defense organization. In the second half we were stronger, more intense and after the 1-0 the game was broken and we could score more goals.”
This sounds like the Mourinho we know. Tottenham feel like a Mourinho team now.