After the slightly shocking dismissal of Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday night, Tottenham Hotspur have now turned to José Mourinho to try and save their season.
After a lacklustre start to the season, which has seen the Lilywhites pick up just 14 points from their first 12 games, the Special One is bound to come in and shake things up – but what does that mean for the potential of certain players?
In this article, I’ll be analysing the likely impact of Mourinho on the Tottenham squad, and on individuals such as Harry Kane, Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son.
The Formation and Team
Mourinho has been known to be very flexible with his team’s shape over the years, but his two favourite formations seem to be a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3. The former is certainly something which the Portuguese manager has been trying to perfect for a long time, with him using it as far back as his Inter Milan days.
So, for Tottenham, it means that their team is likely to look like this (while accounting for injuries for the foreseeable future):
My first variable point concerns the central/holding midfielders, who I have listed as being Eric Dier and Tanguy Ndombélé.
A feature of a Mourinho side is the inclusion of a single, robust defensive midfielder, meaning that either Dier or Victor Wanyama could be included.
The other “holding” midfielder tends to be either more attack-minded, or much more mobile. So, for instance, it could end up being a deep-lying playmaker, or a player like Ndombélé, who is more free to do some destructive work in front of the back 4, while also being able to offer something going forward.
Rotation options for Ndombélé include Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks or even possibly Giovani Lo Celso, as they all tend to fit the typical mould for this position under Mourinho.Embed from Getty Images
Further up the field, in the 3 behind the striker, there is a possibility that not all of Lucas Moura, Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen will play at the same time, with Erik Lamela, Dele Alli and Ryan Sessegnon looking to put a spanner in the works for those 3.
I’d say Son’s spot looks pretty safe on the left flank, but rotation is certainly possible between Eriksen, Moura, Lamela and Alli, with Sessegnon still looking a fair distance away from the Spurs starting lineup.
Sides from Mourinho’s past have included a clever technician behind the striker; for instance, he used the likes of Wesley Sneijder at Inter, Kaka and Ozil at Real Madrid, and Oscar in his second spell at Chelsea, while sensationally freezing out another brilliant player in Juan Mata.
He didn’t quite have the quality of some of those players at his disposal at Man Utd, instead using Jesse Lingard behind the striker when he played this formation. However, this Spurs squad does have a lot of the types of players that José has preferred over the years.
The impact on Spurs’ assetsEmbed from Getty Images
The first thing I’ve noted about José Mourinho is that he always finds a way to get goals out of strikers. Not only that, but goals out of strikers that tend to be the wrong side of 30 years old.
The likes of Diego Milito, Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all fall into this category, with Mourinho managing to get a pretty good number of goals out of all three of them, even if Eto’o’s season at Chelsea was hampered somewhat by injury.
So if Mourinho can do that for older strikers, imagine what he could do for Harry Kane, a striker who has already had one 30-goal Premier League season at the age of 26.
In the summer of 2014, a 26-year old Diego Costa was snapped up by Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, and he produced 20 goals in just 26 games to see Chelsea to the league title.
An even younger Gonzalo Higuaín contributed a combined total of 48 league goals in 80 games for Real Madrid under Mourinho, despite stiff competition from Karim Benzema at the time. The Argentine international was just 22 in his first season under Mourinho.
And a 24-year old Romelu Lukaku was able to get 16 goals in 34 league games in Mourinho’s second season at Old Trafford, so it shows the sudden hike in potential for all first team strikers under the Special One.
As for Kane, he has had a tendency, certainly when I’ve seen him play, to drop deep and look to facilitate the build-up play, but there will be a marked decline in this type of play under Mourinho.
His system requires players who produce darting runs behind the lines, and are comfortable dribbling with the ball, in addition to the “wildcard” tactic of dropping the striker in and pushing the wingers on when things aren’t going to plan.
Under the guidance of Mourinho, it’s wholly possible that Kane could transform his goal-scoring figures, and we may see a few seasons of the England captain consistently finishing on 30+ goals.Embed from Getty Images
While it’s bound to help Kane, Mourinho’s appointment may also come as a blessing for the likes of Heung-Min Son, who is the winger who is likely to play most often for Spurs.
During Mourinho’s second spell at Chelsea, he had the talent of Eden Hazard at his disposal, and the Belgian managed 28 goals and 19 assists in 67 league games across 2 seasons.
These were evenly split too, with 14 goals in both the 13/14 and 14/15 seasons, and 10 assists coming in the 14/15 season, with the other 9 coming the season before.
Now, Son definitely has the potential to recreate this and become one of Tottenham’s most valuable assets, especially given his attacking instincts and his ability to get past players.
While it’s all a bit of a case of waiting on Tottenham players, I believe Kane and Son are probably the two most likely to star in a José Mourinho team.
Defensively, I believe they will need some time to get to grips with Mourinho’s “park the bus” tactic. And it’s also possible that they will have to buy in at least one defensive player in January to really get to the level that the Portuguese expects.
I wouldn’t quite expect to see such a rate of youth graduates feature as have done in the last 5 and a half years, but certainly in the next couple of years, it could be an exiting time for Tottenham Hotspur.