November 18th of 2019 marked Mauricio Pochettino’s last official day in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, following a string of poor results in the Premier league and Champions league.
An embarrassing 7-2 defeat by Bayern Munich and a 3-0 away loss to Brighton the previous month ultimately contributed to Levy’s decision; it seemed Pochettino had lost his magic and his time at the club was up.
A year on from a Champions league final, Spurs found themselves 14th in the league table and eliminated from the Carabao Cup by Colchester on penalties.
Before fans had the chance to step back and contemplate the move Levy had made, and what it would mean next for the club, Jose Mourinho emerged from his year break to take control of the perplexed squad. With an entirely new tactical mindset, from the first day he began to change the philosophy and direction of the club for the foreseeable future.
Sorrow and nostalgia amongst fans quickly transformed into split opinions; an experienced world class manager with a form of success at every club he’s been at, or a manager whose peak has long passed and ideology has outdated and is ineffective in modern day football.
This week marks a year since the Portuguese became manager of Tottenham Hotspur and despite the various opinions on his success at the club, it’s fair to say he has taken the players to the next step.
The task set for Mourinho was difficult from the get-go, he had never taken charge of a team in the middle of a season. This was the same manager who had won a trophy at every club he’d been at, and although some supporters were seemingly over-optimistic about gaining silverware in his first season, there was an understanding that the “Special One” would need time to adapt to his fresh congregation of players.
With three days of preparation leading up to West Ham away, shown in the documentary All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, Mourinho had conversations with individuals such as Dele Alli and Harry Kane on how to enhance their performances and an immediate impact was made in their win at the London Stadium.
His reaction to the opening games of his Spurs career in press conferences and interviews won over the hearts of many, and things looked bright after a 4-2 comeback against Olympiacos in the Champions league, a competition very important to Mourinho, who has won it twice. Once with Porto in 2003/04 and again in 2009/10 with Inter.
Moments the distinguished manager would like to forget are matches against his old clubs, a 2-0 loss against his old student, Frank Lampard, the head coach of Chelsea and a 2-1 loss on the road to Solskjaer’s United.
This season has begun in different fashion, as he got his revenge on both managers, one being a 6-1 thrashing of the Devils at Old Trafford and the other a penalty shootout win over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup.
A key part of Mourinho’s progression with Spurs is his desire to have a relationship with his players. In his mind he knows who he has a healthy relation with and who won’t be getting involved in games.
There are certain situations, however, which he took care of, despite the questionable method. Danny Rose, a defender loyal to the club and a fan favourite felt he had been let down by the mastermind’s decision to leave him out of his plans for the second half of the season, stating in the documentary: “I was excited when you came as a manager, but if you don’t want me to play then I’d rather you just tell me and I’ll stay at home, gaffer, and I’ll train at home.”
There was also the Christian Eriksen situation, who had evidently lost his aspiration to play for Tottenham, and after a handful of conversations with Daniel Levy and Mourinho, the choice to sell the Dane to Inter Milan had been agreed.
For the start of the 2019/20 season, midfielder Dele Alli could not find his usual flaring form and there were worries that it would not be discovered again. At the beginning of Mourinho’s reign, he had helped Alli adapt to his plans and the star put in an impressive display in the months that proceeded, ending the season with nine goals and six assists in all competitions.
The numbers on its own don’t suggest anything spectacular, but for the then-23-year-old, it was an improvement and a sign of better things to come in the near future.
Tottenham’s season took a turn for the worst, though, with injured Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son quickly joining Hugo Lloris on the absent list mid-season. With attacking options looking dire, come the January transfer window it was clear Spurs’ frontline required bolstering.
On top of the buy-now clause being triggered on Giovani Lo-celso’s contract, Jose was advised by Steve Hitchen to sign Dutch winger Steven Bergwijn from PSV, for a fee of £26.7 million.
The winger had an instant impact, scoring a fantastic volley on his debut against Manchester City, a shining light in the darker period of Tottenham’s season.
Bergwijn had a handful of stand-out performances following his debut, with superb displays against Aston Villa and Manchester United. Unfortunately, since then he has struggled to get back to his reputation of a speedy, lethal forward and now with the arrival of Gareth Bale, he must take his game to the next level.
Lockdown could not have come at a better time for Spurs, as their injury list cleared and smiles were back on the players’ faces. They begun Project Restart determined to work on their away form which had been close to abysmal, only winning five games in all competitions.
Jose’s side finished their season with five wins out of the nine remaining games, including a satisfying victory in the North London Derby, thanks to a late Toby Alderweireld header, with nine minutes to go.
The team managed a sixth place finish, their lowest since 2014/15. There were some positives to take away however, as they were eight places below eight months prior. So whilst not being remarkable for the squad’s standards, they made the most of a tough situation.
Chelsea beating Wolves on the last day of the season meant Europa League qualification for Spurs, and despite dropping out of a Champions League place, there was a glimmer of hope for fans.
Thanks to his relationship with Daniel Levy and Steven Hitchen, as well as a £175 million loan from the Bank of England: signings such as Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Sergio Reguilon, Matt Doherty, Joe Rodon, Carlos Vinicius and Gareth Bale were allowed to happen, but what would it mean for the next campaign?
Part 2 coming soon…
Article written by Benzi Melcer
Edited by Joey Pickthall