In the time since Jose Mourinho was appointed as Tottenham manager, only Liverpool have gathered more points and they’ve moved from 14th in the table, 11 points behind the Champions League places, to fifth.
And yet to watch them play is not to see an enormously impressive side, and certainly not a very ‘Mourinho’ side. In that time they have won eight and lost four of 14 games, but unusually for Mourinho they have scored 25 goals and conceded 17, only keeping three clean sheets.
So what’s going on?
“They’re not [very Mourinho], it’s been very strange,” said Michael Cox on this week’s Totally Football Show. “From the outset there’s been a commitment to attack, a different kind of structure in possession to what we usually see under Mourinho. The strange thing is that Spurs have good centre-backs – they shouldn’t be conceding this number of goals, but they don’t seem to be protecting them very well. They seem to be exposed and isolated quite a lot.
“I think he’s done quite a good job in a slightly unconvincing way. They keep having these ding-dong 3-2s – four of them.”
Tom Williams agreed: “It is surprising to see Mourinho come into a team and have no discernible impact on their ability to defend. All of Tottenham’s back five played poorly, they all had moments of culpability.
Sam Parkin thinks there is an issue with their goalkeeper. “They’re struggling from set-pieces. Defensively I don’t think they have the trust in Hugo Lloris at the moment. He was very shaky against Southampton in the FA Cup replay, should have done better for Shane Long’s goal, and against Villa you question Alderweireld’s involvement but the goalkeeper is under pressure to be better as well.”
But there are, of course, positives, even if some of them come with qualifications. Like the form of Son Heung-min, for example.
“In Harry Kane’s absence, the one thing he’s done is to score goals,” said Sam. “That’s six in his last five games. But I don’t think his performance levels have been anywhere near where they were at the start of the season or in past campaigns. I think the red card against Chelsea and the absence of Kane has affected him as well.
“It’s difficult to really analyse Jose Mourinho’s side at the moment: defensively they’ve been calamitous at times, but going forwards, with the front four they had against Aston Villa – Son, Bergwijn, Alli and Moura – they’ve been electric.
“There is a hardiness about Spurs at the moment,” said Tom Williams. “They went into the winter break on the back of that smash n’ grab win over Manchester City, got the win against Aston Villa [in the last minute], and that’s three wins in a row for the first time in a year.
“This was very far from a routine win, but the fact they kept plugging away suggests there is something there.”
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