To say that this past week has been a massive blow for Tottenham Hotspur would be an understatement. After somehow losing to Arsenal in their North London Derby rematch followed by their embarrassing crash out of the Europa League to falling flat against Dinamo Zagreb, a side whose manager was imprisoned days before, Jose Mourinho’s job is suddenly on the line.
At the time of writing, the Portuguese boss is able to take a breather after beating Aston Villa 2-0, sending his London side three points outside of the top four.
“You need time to develop this [squad chemistry],” Mourinho said after the Villa clash. “I want to be proud of my players regardless of the result. During my career I was proud of my players after defeat many times. I was not proud last week. I want to be proud every time.”
On paper, beating Aston Villa without its greatest player Jack Grealish should’ve been a fairly easy win for most teams. While the Lilywhites’ performance wasn’t the greatest, it certainly wasn’t their worst; and most definitely was a step in the right direction.
The job isn’t done yet, however. While the Premier League is put on a brief hold due to the international break, Spurs will have to be virtually flawless as they’ll face Newcastle, Manchester United and Everton in the month of April. While Newcastle shouldn’t pose as huge of a threat (you never know though, it’s Spurs), they will certainly have to up the ante against the Red Devils and the Toffees, respectively. Given the rebuild Tottenham is still going through, it will prove to be a challenge.
Now, do I personally think Mourinho will end up leaving by the end of the season? No, at least not if he manages to end Spurs’ season on a very high note. Despite the disappointing matches last week, many called for Mourinho to be sacked; I thought that was stupid. Yes, those were heartbreaking defeats, but I’m not a reactionary type of person.
I think Spurs fans forget the club still has deadwood floating around the squad. If Mourinho can’t turn players like Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko or even Ben Davies into world class players like he did with Didier Drogba and Mezut Ozil, there’s no chance any other manager after Mourinho can do it.
On top of that, Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy spent years trying to bring the decorated manager to Tottenham; why would he waste his time and money on the man just to sack him two years later? I also feel like many forgot he wanted to change the mentality Spurs had when Mauricio Pochettino was at the helm. In the ‘All or Nothing’ documentary, Mourinho said, “a team of good guys, they never win.” To be honest, and I hate to say it, but Pochettino’s ‘family’ mentality softened the club. Mourinho wants his players to be gritty in order to go in the right direction of silverware.
All that the North London side has left is winning the Carabao Cup against Manchester City, which, I won’t speak too much about, and fighting for a top four spot. As mentioned, Spurs are right outside the top four to earn a Champions League qualification. Given their options in the squad, especially in their back line, it will be a rough journey.
The only other team that seems to be fighting for a European qualification spot is West Ham, who is sitting in fifth place. Sure, you can argue Liverpool as well, but they’re too focused in their current Champions League campaign, and I don’t see them trying to make a last minute push given their current squad. Everton is trying, but its recent form isn’t helping to accomplish that. Arsenal’s form has been an absolute rollercoaster, so who knows with them.
The top four consists of Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester City and Chelsea, in that order. Surpassing West Ham should be fairly easy; stealing Chelsea’s spot and keeping it, not so much. It will certainly prove to be the pinnacle of Mourinho’s future if he’s able to take it. As much as I still think he can do wonders next season and given how keen he is to be active in the summer transfer window, that’s the reality of the state of Tottenham.
Spurs have to live up to their motto now until the end of the season, which ends two months from today: To dare is to do.