When Mauricio Pochettino was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur last November, just five months after leading them to their maiden Champions League final, it took the club less than 24 hours to announce Jose Mourinho as the new man in charge. It was as if the club's chairman Daniel Levy had already lined up Mourinho even before showing the door to Pochettino.
Most of the Tottenham Hotspur faithful were baffled when the Argentine was axed, but they were even more surprised by his replacement. And it's easy to see why.
Mourinho, in most ways, wasn’t the man expected to fill in Pochettino’s shoes. However, fast forward nine months, and it seems like the supporters have moved on from a similar experience as one has after a breakup.
Mourinho not only managed to stabilise a fumbling Tottenham Hotspur side, but he also got them back to European places, something that many thought was 'unachievable' after the final few weeks of the Pochettino era.
Come this weekend, and the Portuguese will begin his first full season in charge at the North London club. It will be the beginning of a new era for the players and the supporters of Tottenham Hotspur.
The term ‘Spursy’ has been thrown around quite a lot by the rival fans and neutrals alike since the past few years. In truth, it’s hard to argue against it as Tottenham Hotspur haven't won any major trophy for more than a decade now. The last silverware they lifted was the League Cup in 2008.
There is a dedicated account (@_SpursTrophies) on Twitter just to count the number of days since Tottenham Hotspur last won any trophy. Its latest tweet says 4581 at the time of writing. And that is quite a long time in football.
When Pochettino arrived at Tottenham Hotspur, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Not just the club’s supporters, but much of the football audience believed that it was the beginning of something special at Spurs.
No doubt, the Argentine did some good work and gave Tottenham Hotspur the best years in their recent history. Pochettino came close but missed out in terms of titles and trophies, though. But he certainly made the Lilywhites relevant again and made them play with a distinct style, even if he came up short on substance.
When it comes to the style vs substance debate, many modern fans would say that one need not be at the cost of the other. Well, it can be argued against the contrary, but those fans have a stronger case.
How likely are Tottenham Hotspur to end their trophy drought under Jose Mourinho?
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp’s teams are the best examples in this regard. Mourinho’s CV isn’t short of trophies and success either, but there is a growing perception that he has lost his charm, and his best years are behind him.
Moreover, many hold the opinion that Mourinho’s teams don't have any distinct styles unlike several other top managers currently. However, it can be claimed that his teams do possess a definite style, no matter how orthodox and obsolete it may be. Modernists would say that staying true to those principles, even though that’s not entirely the case, has led to Mourinho's downfall.
If Tottenham Hotspur ever lacked something that all other top clubs have had, it was, with all due respect to Pochettino, an elite manager. Now, in Mourinho, they’ve got a blockbuster figure.
Spurs now truly possess all the attributes of a top club - a brand new world-class stadium, a squad with a good blend of experienced and young players, a serial-winning manager and off-field commercial fame. But Tottenham Hotspur still don’t seem like a top team.
Reason? Trophies. Despite doing many things correctly, they have not been able to get their hands on any silverware for 12 long years. Jose Mourinho is certainly among the best candidates to end that long trophy drought. The only question, though, is that will he be able to do it?
Especially because a lot has changed since he has taken over at Totttenham Hotspur. Of course, the coming season will be challenging, but it’s not just that. It is the fact that the next season is going to be entirely different and busier than anyone has ever seen before.
So, how would Tottenham Hotspur fare in 2020-21? Looking at their transfer business this summer could perhaps provide some answers. As far as things on that front stand now, the future looks encouraging for Spurs.
The acquisition of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty, two established Premier League players, would address some problem areas for Spurs. Also, Joe Hart’s arrival makes sense in the goalkeeping department as his experience and leadership qualities would prove to be beneficial. Spurs’ transfer business has been sensible so far, but it's far from over.
The departures of some long-serving players like Jan Vertonghen and Michel Vorm wouldn’t hurt much, which suggests that the club is moving on to a new era. Removing any kind of uncertainty around players is, of course, a priority for all clubs, and Spurs have some decisions to make in that regard.
The first and foremost is that of Tanguy Ndombele’s. The Frenchman was signed for a club-record fee last summer, but he has struggled for form and fitness for the entire season.
Certainly, it would be silly to think about selling the club’s record signing without really giving him proper chances and time to settle.
The recently- released Amazon documentary showed how serious Mourinho is about training attitude. Reports revealed a few months ago that the Portuguese tactician and Ndombele were not on common ground. Serge Aurier and Juan Foyth are the other players whose futures are in limbo as well.
A backup striker and another centre-back would definitely boost Tottenham Hotspur's squad depth, but in the current circumstances, that would be extremely tricky to pull off. Taking any further new signings and departures out of consideration, Mourinho has - assuming that he’d give chances to the younger players - enough quality, experience, potential and prowess in his squad to compete on multiple fronts.
Mourinho is an excellent man-manager, and that is why many players express their desire to play for him. Critics may accuse him of employing outdated tactics and approaches, but Mourinho can certainly get players behind him and make them carry out his instructions on the pitch to get the desired results.
Last season, Tottenham Hotspur weren't entirely convincing. Results against Wolves, Sheffield and Bournemouth were difficult to take, but the ones in their final few games of the season provide some optimism.
With that being said, Tottenham Hotspur are very well-equipped to end their long trophy drought this season. Nobody’s talking about a EPL title challenge here. But a top-four push along with a genuine ambition to claim the Europa League or any of the domestic cups is absolutely within Tottenham Hotspur's reach.
Mourinho might not be a popular man among Tottenham Hostpur's supporters, and they might not even chant his name. However, as he himself said in his press conference that he is “a club man, but a many clubs man”, so maybe they have to see him as ‘Mr Spurs’ now. Who knows they might start chanting Mourinho's name if he finally brings home a trophy for Tottenham Hotspur.Published 09 Sep 2020, 14:21 IST