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fall from grace The Spurs blame game. Who really deserves the criticism for club’s slide?

We examine the telling factors behind slump – from the manager’s ego to grumbling players and the man at the very top, Daniel Levy


One person who can be excused from blame over Tottenham's recent slump is star striker Harry Kane. Photo: Neil Hall/PA Wire

One person who can be excused from blame over Tottenham's recent slump is star striker Harry Kane. Photo: Neil Hall/PA Wire

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho

Heung-Min Son

Heung-Min Son


One person who can be excused from blame over Tottenham's recent slump is star striker Harry Kane. Photo: Neil Hall/PA Wire

After a season that began with promise, Tottenham Hotspur are beginning to verge into freefall. Dumped out of the Europa League after squandering a first-leg, two-goal lead, their quest to make a late charge into the Premier League’s top four has been hampered by rank inconsistency.

Only last Sunday, they looked to be on their way to three points against Newcastle United, only to concede a late equaliser to their relegation-threatened opponents.

The acrimony that followed did not paint a picture of a dressing-room in harmony but in this instance, none of the principal players are immune from blame, starting with their controversial manager.

Jose Mourinho

As ever with Mourinho, it is best to start with him. After all, he is always the centre of attention – which is part of the problem. When he took over as Tottenham head coach in November 2019, Mourinho declared he had changed.

“I have had time to think about many things. During my career I have made mistakes,” he said. Did anyone really believe him? No. And so it has transpired. Mourinho has lashed out at his team, passed on the blame, singled out individuals. It was summed up with his pithy “same coach, different players” comment after Spurs’ disappointing draw at Newcastle.

The criticism has taken its toll. Players are fed up, there have been grumblings not just about Mourinho’s man-management but also his training, which led him to say, “Mine and my coaching staff’s methods are second to nobody in the world”. Some in the dressing-room hope he goes at the end of this campaign. There is pent-up frustration at Mourinho’s conservative tactics and passing the buck rather than the ball.

Mourinho said he did not need any new signings when he arrived, only then to insinuate some players cannot perform at a higher standard. The Portuguese plays reactive football in a proactive age, is risk-averse and is looking out of step with the modern game. Will winning the Carabao Cup be enough? Not if Spurs fail to qualify for Europe.

Blame share: 40 per cent

The Players

Where would Tottenham be without Harry Kane? The striker has excelled in an underperforming team. There have been some respectable contributions around him, led by Son Heung-min and new signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but who else?

Maybe Tanguy Ndombele, even if he has still not lived up to his £50 million-plus fee. No, the players have largely underperformed, principally Dele Alli and Gareth Bale – and a Mourinho favourite in Eric Dier, whose form has collapsed.

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Alli will argue that he has been badly handled by Mourinho, but there is also a personal responsibility and his decline in performance predated the present head coach. The gamble of signing Bale on loan has just not worked. He was not a Mourinho signing, but it was up to him to get the best out of Bale.

Some players appear to have lost heart. They have to share the blame for that.

Blame share: 20 per cent

Daniel Levy

The Spurs chairman is not exempt from criticism. Levy can point to Mourinho’s verdict that he conducted “amazing” transfer business to apparently improve the squad by signing Hojbjerg, Bale, Sergio Reguilon, Matt Doherty, Joe Rodon, Joe Hart, Carlos Vinicius. Net spend was around £50 million – modest compared to some, but not inconsiderable. Revisionists and Mourinho supporters will argue that was not enough and, particularly, that he was denied the quick, experienced centre-back he wanted.

But Levy will counter he did what he could.

The biggest criticism of Levy is in hiring Mourinho in the first place. Even at the time it was questioned. It felt like a short-term fix from a star-struck chairman who has always been about long-term planning, even if he had wanted Mourinho since he was first sacked by Chelsea in 2007.

Bringing him in represented a significant gear change and change of style from Mauricio Pochettino.

Another criticism of Levy is whether he took his eye off the ball given how much time and energy he devoted to the new stadium. The announcement that staff faced 20pc salary reductions or being furloughed on the day the club published accounts showing he received £7m in salary and bonus was a PR own goal.

Spurs are still waiting to secure a lucrative naming rights deal on the stadium. That is Levy’s responsibility.

Blame share: 25 per cent

External Factors

And finally the mitigation. “The impact of the pandemic on our revenue is material and could not have come at a worse time, having just completed a £1.2 billion stadium build which is financed by club resources and long-term debt,” Levy said last year – and he is right.

The timing could not have been worse for Tottenham. Their stadium was upposed to be “lift-off” in front of 62,500 fans and generate the income to help propel Spurs to a new level.

It was part of the “vision” Levy sold to Mourinho.

Instead, Spurs had to take out a £175 million loan from the Bank of England and profits have been turned into losses, with Levy estimating at least a £150 million drop in revenue.

Arguably it came with a team in need of a radical overhaul, a process complicated by the fact that they will always be outspent by their major rivals.

It is against this backdrop that Levy has to decide whether to enter into the costly business of replacing Mourinho.

Blame share: 15 per cent

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