Sunday 15 December 2019

Mourinho has played a blinder but it will get tougher from here

Jose Mourinho wants new club Tottenham to catch his old one in Chelsea (John Walton/PA)
Jose Mourinho wants new club Tottenham to catch his old one in Chelsea (John Walton/PA)

Ben Findon

There is nothing better than early success to damp down the doubters. Saturday's 3-2 defeat of Bournemouth at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium meant Jose Mourinho had overseen three wins within 10 days of taking over.

"I think the results changed a lot and also the positive vibe," said Son Heung-min, provider of two of the goals that sank Bournemouth. "The atmosphere's changed a lot."

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With 10 goals in three exciting, topsy-turvy matches, this is far from the stereotypical Mourinho grind.

Tactical tweaks

Mourinho has used his 4-2-3-1 formation, though a midfield diamond shone on Saturday.

Spurs sit deeper, concentrate on winning the second ball and launch rapid counter-strikes. Note, too, the occasional long ball, employed to devastating effect by Toby Alderweireld, whose two long passes led to both Dele Alli goals.

Mourinho's instructions are clear and the players are following them. "The players know when we have to go forward, when we have to keep the ball," said Son.

Getting players onside

Spurs players have quickly bought into the Mourinho game plan, Alli being the shining example. Now playing just behind Harry Kane, he looks a player reborn.

Kane was not a headline act on Saturday but worked relentlessly and has clearly appreciated several one-to-one chats with Mourinho.

Elsewhere, Eric Dier has found a more natural role in holding midfield and full-back Serge Aurier is forming a powerful right-sided partnership with Moussa Sissoko.

Charm offensive

So far, there is no sign of the grumpy Mourinho we saw at Manchester United. Aware that many at Tottenham were sore over the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, Mourinho went to great lengths to speak warmly about his predecessor.

Bigging up the likes of Alli plays well in the dressing-room, and hugging ball-boy Callum Hynes for quickly returning the ball to play to enable Spurs to level against Olympiacos was a PR masterstroke.

Still work to do

Spurs have seen off West Ham, Olympiacos and Bournemouth but suffered major scares in each game.

There are sterner tests ahead, starting with Wednesday's trip to Manchester United. Wolves and Chelsea also lie in wait before Christmas, although the Champions League trip to Bayern Munich is less pressing with qualification assured.

Mourinho's main aim will be to drill a defence that is shipping two goals per game - a statistic he needs to change as he chases a top-four place and cup honours.

 

(Daily Telegraph, London)

 

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