Jose Mourinho set to be given time at Tottenham but ‘pressure growing’ after Chelsea loss

Defeat to Chelsea saw the Portuguese suffer back-to-back home league losses for the first time in his career after 327 games

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Friday 05 February 2021 13:15 GMT
Tottenham’s classic home strikes against Chelsea

Daniel Levy still wants to give Jose Mourinho time to turn Tottenham Hotspur’s season around, but several sources say “pressure is growing”.

This form - nine points from 10 league games - won’t be indulged indefinitely.

Levy is said in the past to have been “star struck” by Mourinho, and the manager's status was one big reason he appointed him, but even he has been struck by the utter poverty of the football.

On the surface, things can still be spun positively, and there are superficial reasons for persisting with the Portuguese. Spurs are still in contention for the top four, still in the final of the League Cup, and still involved in two other cups. Even Thursday’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea could easily have been a draw had Vinicius’ late header gone in, in which case the feeling would have been the euphoria from a late goal.

That would have been short-lived, however, and to ignore just how bad this performance and so many before it have been.

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That’s why it’s difficult to have too much faith in those surface reasons. There is little indication this is going to improve. If anything, the performances are getting worse, and becoming close to unwatchable. It is remarkable how poor they have been. Spurs look zombified. The 6-1 win over Manchester United and brief prospect of a title challenge feel so long ago. They're in the kind of form where the relative difficulty of the next fixture almost looks irrelevant, because they make hard work of everything.

Mourinho might complain about the absence of players who “mean something for our attacking football” - like Harry Kane, like Sergio Reguilon, like Giovani Lo Celso, like “a good Dele Alli” as he pointedly put it - but the question is then why he didn’t try something different with the system? Why not improvise a bit? It’s still just sitting deep and trying to get it to Son Heung-Min and Kane, but with one injured and the other now looking jaded, leaving… nothing. That’s what Spurs’ displays amount to right now - especially in terms of points.

There isn’t yet mutiny among the players or anything like that, but a growing number have serious misgivings about the football. A minority are fed up with it. Mourinho still has influential loyalists - like Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris - but the wonder is whether they will still be as loyal if he continues to publicly criticise others, and performances further worsen. One close observer says many players look like “they are playing with fear”. That's something else that's been seen before.

For all Mourinho’s talk that he had reflected on what had gone wrong at Manchester United when he got the Spurs job, the feeling is the “antics” are starting. He was needlessly rude to a reporter when she asked about Gareth Bale being sidelined, saying she didn’t “deserve an answer”, and didn’t exactly offer clarification in his main press conference.

“I'm doing my best, he's doing his best. Everybody is doing their best.”

There was then the hint of something akin to his notorious “football heritage” press conference after the dire Champions League elimination to Sevilla in 2018, when Mourinho was asked if he’s feeling the pressure. When it was brought up that this had been the first time he’d suffered three defeats in a row since 2012, he immediately snapped back about how long it’s been since Spurs had won a trophy. “But since when without a title? Maybe I can give one.”

A League Cup win currently looks the best return for the season, and there would be the alluring fact that it would be Spurs’ first trophy since 2008, and only third in 30 years. Levy could even spin it as the reason Mourinho was appointed at all.

But how much would it actually mean in the modern game, and what Levy really wants - which is top-level status? Winning the FA Cup didn’t mean much for the futures of Antonio Conte or Louis van Gaal. Winning the League Cup meant even less for the last two Spurs managers to do so. They were Juande Ramos and George Graham - neither exactly club legends, to say the least. Such feats pale next to what Mauricio Pochettino did at the club. He changed the profile of Spurs. This is what Levy really wants.

He certainly didn’t expect this. Mourinho’s last 12 games have produced worse results than the last 12 games that cost Pochettino his job.

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And there is none of the progress the Argentine was responsible for. There is currently no hint of anything like it, either. Quite the opposite.

It is at least possible we are entering the Mourinho end game. If that is the case, or bad form continues, Levy will have a decision to make - and maybe a dilemma.

It will be expensive in the short-term to sack Mourinho. It may be even more expensive in the long-term to leave him there, and risk losing their place in European competition, and so much of their recent clout.

The pressure is very much on.

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