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under pressure Cautious Mourinho runs risk of alienating Spurs fans


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Same old Jose: Jose Mourinho has seen points disappear when trying to protect a lead which has hit
Tottenham’s title hopes. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Pool via Reuters

Same old Jose: Jose Mourinho has seen points disappear when trying to protect a lead which has hit Tottenham’s title hopes. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Pool via Reuters

Pool via REUTERS

Same old Jose: Jose Mourinho has seen points disappear when trying to protect a lead which has hit Tottenham’s title hopes. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Pool via Reuters

Jose Mourinho called out Dele Alli for a flick that gave away a goal against Stoke City in Tottenham's Carabao Cup quarter-final, speaking of his anger and of the player "creating problems for his own team".

Except Alli did not give away a goal, did he? His flick was a bad decision - there was a much less risky pass to make - but he did not give up on it, he then challenged a Stoke player, forcing the ball to be played back to the goalkeeper. Tottenham had plenty of time to reset defensively before Jordan Thompson eventually scored the equaliser.

Alli was substituted 13 minutes later, showed his pent-up anger, before Spurs went on to win the quarter-final 3-1 in his absence and Mourinho was inevitably asked about the incident.

Why does this matter? Imagine how Mourinho would have reacted had he still been the Manchester United manager when Bruno Fernandes gave the ball away, in a far more dangerous area, directly leading to Leicester City's first goal in the 2-2 draw on St Stephen's Day.

It would have been similar and it is this kind of public upbraiding that comes to mind when watching Spurs against Wolves, when they scored in the first minute, then grimly defended and tried to hold on, which they failed to do.

Afterwards Mourinho claimed these were not his instructions. But the way he sets up his team, the tactics he adopts, the substitutions he makes, the tone he sets and the way he criticises players who make mistakes creates an inhibiting environment. It is fear first. Players are scared of making an error and Mourinho has always believed that the team that makes the fewest errors will win. He spoke about a lack of "ambition", but does he encourage it when he is so quick to look for scapegoats?

It is nothing new and the treatment of Alli follows a pattern. The 24-year-old has been made an example of, is clearly not wanted by Mourinho, but can also be the kind of creative, box-to-box midfielder Spurs lack and the manager, apparently, wants them to sign in the January window when Alli should also go. Alli is also a popular member of the dressing-room and there is sympathy for him about the way he has been treated.

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Tottenham's Dele Alli is getting the blame from Mourinho

Tottenham's Dele Alli is getting the blame from Mourinho

PA

Tottenham's Dele Alli is getting the blame from Mourinho

In The Greatest Games, the excellent new book by Jamie Carragher, he argues that there is no "right way" to win and, of course, that is true. What is fascinating about this Premier League season, more than any other, is that style of play and philosophy have become such divisive topics.

But the thing with Mourinho, a senior figure at Chelsea once said privately, is that if he stops winning then what is there left? Granted the comment was made as the relationship had turned decidedly sour, but it is difficult to think of another manager who provokes such violent reactions.

On the face of it, a 1-1 draw away to Wolves is respectable enough, as is the fact that Spurs are just a point outside the top four and six points behind leaders Liverpool.

It is hardly crisis time and wins over Fulham and Leeds United this week should see them back in the Champions League places and maybe even challenging for the title again.

Not so long ago they took seven points from fixtures against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal and the attacking axis of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane was scaring the rest of the league, with Mourinho being praised.

And yet. Spurs have gained just two points from their past four league games and it is the manner of those defeats and draws that is causing so much vexation for the fans of a club whose motto is 'To Dare is To Do'.

Maybe it is too much to say that, in these times above all others, and especially during this restricted festive period, there is a duty to try to entertain not just try to win, but the Spurs fans who watched the Wolves game will have been left feeling empty at the final whistle.

Without the victory - as that Chelsea official said - what was there?

Mourinho has always played the percentages, but never more so than at Spurs, and what will be eating him up at present is not just the flatlining of results, but the fact that they have dropped nine points this season with goals conceded in the last 10 minutes - the most by any side in the Premier League.

Condensed

For Mourinho, that will be unforgivable as will the fact that they have conceded six goals from set-pieces.

There has been a theory since the start of the campaign that the condensed nature of the season, the fixture and injury pile-up, the freakishness of playing in empty stadiums, the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, has created a chaos that means a character such as Mourinho will thrive.

That may well be the case. Spurs face Brentford in the Carabao Cup semi-finals and are close to winning their first trophy since 2008; they are in the last-32 of the Europa League and the signings made under Mourinho have - largely - worked out.

But it is on the cusp. They need to rally or the restiveness will rise.

A personal preference has always been for more positive football, but each to their own. There is no right or wrong way, as Carragher points out. The difference, though, is that when you do not win the Mourinho way there is less to sustain you and there is more negativity than with those managers he curls his nose up at. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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