Jose Mourinho at Tottenham: What are the 10 biggest challenges facing Spurs' new boss?
By Nick Wright and Ron Walker
Last Updated: 21/11/19 1:11pm
Jose Mourinho takes over a Spurs team sat 14th and without a league win in two months. How does he get the club back to its best?
Mourinho arrives at Tottenham facing some significant challenges, inheriting a squad enduring their worst Premier League start in more than a decade and already 11 points off the top four.
But what will be the biggest issues in his in-tray as he settles in for his first morning at Hotspur Way?
1. Turn the form around
Tottenham's Premier League form is nothing short of dire. They haven't won a league match since September 28 and in truth, they have never really got going this season. Ever since losing to Newcastle in August their form has coughed and spluttered, they are still without an away league win since January and it has been all too clear how their confidence and performances have tailed off.
Mourinho's first test will be a challenge to break that 10-month record at West Ham on Saturday, and with the club 11 points off the top four, a victory is already vital.
2. Define his Spurs style
Spurs have developed their own philosophy over the last few years of a high-intensity pressing game and it certainly suits them, even if it has fallen away over the last 12 months. It's not a style Mourinho is known for, but there is more than one way to skin a cat - and pragmatism over style will be received just fine with results a necessity at the moment.
But longer-term, just as Mourinho's style began to wear thin at Manchester United, if Spurs fans do not see a return to the sort of attacking football they have seen for much of the past five years under Pochettino, their patience may begin to wane.
3. Win over any doubters
The reaction to Mourinho's arrival has been mixed on the whole inside and outside of the Tottenham fan base, with comments about his style of play, mentioned above, and his often-explosive management style, especially in his last role at Old Trafford. Will we get the Mourinho of old, the Premier League title winner from 2005, 2006 and 2015, or the other side of Jose?
His manner is certainly a contrast with the way Pochettino went about his work, rarely blaming his players or appearing particularly bitter when the chips were down, and Mourinho may need to tone down his persona to enamour himself to the Spurs fans.
His significant spending record is another bone of contention, but getting the best out of the players already at his disposal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would alleviate some fears on that front, and the 'concerns' the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust have already raised about how he will work with Daniel Levy.
4. Get the best out of Eriksen and Alli
When Spurs have fired on all cylinders under Pochettino, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen have generally been at the heart of it, but both have struggled for form over a prolonged period and need something to spark them into life.
Eriksen's contract issues have undoubtedly played their part for the Dane, while Alli was criticised for losing his 'edge' by Roy Keane last month, so is Mourinho the man to fix it? Well, there's few better man managers in the game. Think back to the tears when he left Inter Milan, the regard with which Frank Lampard and John Terry still hold him. If anyone can get them firing on all cylinders, he's right up there.
5. Shore things up at the back
It's not rocket science to work out what's been going wrong at Tottenham. So far in 2019/20 they've faced double the number of shots on target as they did three years ago. In the last three seasons they've had the third, third and first-best defence in the Premier League, but they've already conceded 18 goals in 12 games this season and only kept one clean sheet.
The curious thing is that the personnel haven't changed much; Jan Vertonghen has had a difficult season and they are light on numbers at right-back after losing Kieran Trippier in the summer, but that's about it. Mourinho's Manchester United side only conceded 28 league goals in his final full season at Old Trafford, so he certainly has the know-how to tighten things up.
6. Deal with contract rebels
One of the biggest issues for Pochettino was that three of his key players - Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Vertonghen - were allowed to enter the final years of their contracts. It impacted squad harmony and it seemed he was never quite sure whether to use them or not.
Mourinho must decide whether he sees the trio as part of his plans. If he does, the challenge will be to convince them to extend their contracts and end the uncertainty surrounding their futures. Mourinho is a known admirer of Alderweireld having wanted him at Manchester United, but does he still feel the same way? And what does he make of Danny Rose? The full-back, whose contract expires in 2021, is another player whose future needs sorting out.
7. Win a trophy
For all Tottenham's progress under Pochettino, there was never any silverware to show for it. They went close, of course, suffering heartbreak in the Champions League final in June, but the 2007/08 League Cup remains the club's only trophy of the last 20 years.
Changing that is likely to be Mourinho's No 1 priority. His managerial CV features no fewer than 25 trophy wins - starting at Porto, where he won his first Champions League, and continuing up until Manchester United, who he steered to Europa League success. Expect him to throw everything at the Champions League and FA Cup this season.
8. Rebuild squad on a budget
Mourinho has been promised funds to strengthen the squad in January and in the summer, but Tottenham's stadium debts are such that he is unlikely to get the level of financial backing he has received at previous clubs. His net spend of £317m at Manchester United was nearly three times as high as Tottenham's across Pochettino's entire tenure.
Mourinho has talked up the squad - even mentioning the quality inside the club's academy - but privately he will be aware that there is work to be done on a defence which has shipped as many goals as Brighton's this season, and an attack which is overly-reliant on Harry Kane. This time, however, he will have to choose his targets knowing the transfer pot is limited.
9. Get new signings up to speed
The squad still needs work, but Mourinho is inheriting three new signings of considerable potential in Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon. The trio, who arrived at a combined cost of £140m, will need to be brought up to speed quickly. Mourinho will be relieved that Lo Celso and Sessegnon have recently put their injury problems behind them.
10. Buy into the project
For all the urgency of Tottenham's current predicament, what's perhaps most important is that Mourinho views this job as a long-term project rather than a short-term assignment. He has signed a three-and-a-half year contract at Spurs but he did not make it to the end of a third season in either of his last two jobs and has never made it to the end of a fourth.
Things tend to unravel with Mourinho, but he is taking over from a manager who has left a proud legacy at Spurs and his challenge is to do the same. Much will depend on his relations with Levy, but ultimately it's down to Mourinho to ensure he does not fall into the same old traps.