Following a perfect start to his time as the Tottenham boss, The Hard Tackle analyses whether Jose Mourinho is the right man for the job.
It was a decision that came as quite a shocker. At the end of a whirlwind 12 hours, Mauricio Pochettino was no longer at the helm at Tottenham and Jose Mourinho was appointed as the new head coach in his stead.
This time last week, Mourinho was set to conduct his first press conference as the Tottenham boss, and many were skeptical as to whether he was the right man to deliver success at the club, after Pochettino had worked incredibly hard to wake up a sleeping giant. Not to mention, Mourinho was not exactly a fan favourite to begin with, following two spells with bitter rivals Chelsea.
Indeed, it was not too long ago that he had proclaimed that he would never manage Spurs, a comment he looked back upon with a tongue in cheek remark, declaring that it was before he was sacked by the Blues. His arrival, though, has been greeted vociferously and the atmosphere at his first home game, against Olympiacos in the Champions League this week, was truly electric.
Now two for two since being named as the Tottenham manager, Mourinho has gone off to a perfect start at the North London club. However, the litmus test will be in whether he can succeed where Pochettino, for a lack of a better work, failed – winning silverware. But, what are the factors that will tilt the scales one way or another?
A Proven Winner With a Ruthless Streak
Mauricio Pochettino had done extremely well to take Tottenham from competing for a place in the Europa League to Champions League regulars. The next step, though, proved to be a mountain that was too steep to climb, with the Champions League final this year being the closest Spurs had ever gotten to winning a trophy under the Argentine.
Even there, the North Londoners were thoroughly outplayed by Liverpool, as the wait for the elusive title continued. This is something that Mourinho’s appointment as the new head coach can solve, and rather quickly.
The proof is in the pudding for the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager. Mourinho has won 25 trophies over the course of his managerial career, never failing to lift silverware at any of his clubs over the last half-a-decade or so.
Even at Manchester United, a spell considered arguably the most underwhelming of his illustrious career, Mourinho delivered instant success, winning two trophies in his first year in-charge. So, if there is one manager who could more or less guarantee winning Spurs’ first trophy in over a decade, it is Mourinho.
The squad at his disposal (more on this shortly) is one of the best in the Premier League, with many left bewildered as to how they did not win anything under Pochettino after making remarkable progress over the last half-a-decade. The only thing that has been standing in their way is a winning temperament.
With Mourinho taking charge, that problem can be rectified. The hard taskmaster that is the Portuguese tactician almost drills his players into being resilient and gritty, qualities that are associated the most with champion teams that tend to grind out results in the most testing of circumstances.
With the drive and desire for success, though, comes a ruthless streak that does not always endears Mourinho to members of his squad. Pochettino was the kind of manager who tends to put his arm around the players’ shoulders. Mourinho, on the other hand, can be blunt with his remarks if high standards are not set.
Most recently at Manchester United, we saw both sides of the coin. While Luke Shaw strived to take Mourinho’s criticism in his stride to become a regular in the team, Paul Pogba ended up clashing with him on a number of occasions before the Portuguese’s dismissal at Old Trafford.
It is true that this approach has often yielded positive results, leaving players the better for it. But, it can also have a negative effect, as has been observed more often than not in the last few years. Mourinho will, therefore, have to peter his demeanour off the pitch, if he was actually serious when he said that he has learned from his mistakes during his time off the game.
As iterated earlier, Mourinho has inherited a squad that is one of the most elite groups of players in the Premier League. The contract issues pertaining to Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen notwithstanding, Mourinho already has pieces of the puzzle in place and will need very little maneuvering in the transfer market to have a finished product to his liking.
In contrast, at Manchester United, he was constantly grappling over viable additions through the two-and-a-half years that he spent at the club. In Harry Kane, Mourinho has at his disposal, one of the most complete strikers in the game, one who can hold the ball up just as well as he can be a target man.
The full-backs, Serge Aurier, Ben Davies and Danny Rose fit the Mourinho mould perfectly, with Aurier already exhibiting why he could enjoy himself under the new manager. Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko are the all-action players who would add ruggedness to the midfield.
Meanwhile, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura are two of the most hardworking wingers in English football and have made themselves indispensable to Mourinho right from the get-go. The likes of Eric Dier and Alderweireld are players who Mourinho has chased for years and automatically become key figures, although the latter’s contract situation needs to be rectified.
Creativity is an area that ought to do with some improvement, while defence could need some sorting out if Alderweireld and Vertonghen run their contracts down. All things considered, though, Mourinho already has more than a skeleton at his disposal, one of the better squads he has ever inherited at a club.
With his undoubted transfer acumen, Tottenham could soon have one of the most complete squads in the Premier League, although to begin with he is likely to be delighted with the set of players he currently has, most of whom fit his ideology well.
Daniel Levy and a Frugal Budgetary Outlook: A Deterrent?
Jose Mourinho has made a career out of getting the players he has wanted at his behest. No other manager has spent more than the Portuguese has. So, the fact that he is set to work with one of the most frugal spenders in the game in Daniel Levy begs the question, “Can the relationship last long?”
Even a manager like Mauricio Pochettino, who had flourished more by blooding the youngsters in than spending the big bucks was left exasperated by the shoestring budget that he was working with until the club record was broken to sign Ndombele in the summer. Even so, there was barely any money spent after bringing Ndombele on board, which only added to Pochettino’s frustrations.
Mourinho is a manager who will demand that big money is spent to strengthen areas that need the reinforcements. The buck stops with Levy at Tottenham, though, and the thrifty outlook could end up being a source of disharmony between the two.
Is Levy ready to change his budgetary stance after making his dream appointment at the helm, 12 years after being snubbed by the same man? Will Mourinho peter his expectations on the financial front? History suggests that neither eventuality is a plausible expectation, although the disbursement made to sign Ndombele could point towards the loosening of purse strings.
Throwing caution to the wind is, therefore, the right way forward and both parties will have to reach some sort of a compromise if tensions are to be averted. Whether it does happen remains to be seen.
With a strong squad at his disposal, Mourinho already finds himself in a much healthier position than he did at Manchester United, or even Chelsea for that matter. For Tottenham, the new head coach brings with himself a winning mentality, which, if imbibed properly, can pave the way for resounding success.
A potentially difficult relationship between the manager and Daniel Levy could be a deterrent, but Mourinho ought to deliver silverware at a club that has been craving trophies for quite some time now. The good does seem to outweigh the bad as things stand and with Mourinho preaching a more humble attitude, his shock appointment might just create an unforeseen happy marriage.