Comment and Analysis @ghostgoal
Jose Mourinho's Tottenham have a second chance this season
Jose Mourinho was already looking to next season but now he has the chance to salvage something from the current campaign and the onus is on him to seize that opportunity, writes Adam Bate...
Last Updated: 19/06/20 8:30pm
It was after the first-leg defeat to RB Leipzig that Jose Mourinho said it.
Tottenham looked short of firepower that evening in London. Star striker Harry Kane had been out injured since New Year's Day. Heung-Min Son, the man asked to deputise for him up front, had since joined Kane on the injury list after breaking his arm against Aston Villa.
Any hope of reaching another Champions League final looked lost. The prospect of qualifying for the competition was fading too.
Mourinho made his feelings known.
"We are speaking about a very difficult situation," he said.
"And if I could - if I could - I would move immediately to the first of July."
The subsequent run of results only added to his gloom. There were defeats to Chelsea and Wolves, an FA Cup exit at home to Norwich. Spurs did manage a point at Burnley but their last competitive action came in Leipzig where a 4-0 aggregate rout was confirmed.
As it turns out, July is almost upon us but the season has some way left to run. Circumstances strange and tragic have conspired to leave Tottenham in mid-June with nine games still to play.
This is not how Mourinho meant it or wanted it. When he talked of the summer he no doubt had in mind a full pre-season with his players - one denied him by his November arrival.
Another transfer window would be useful too, no doubt. Perhaps most of all, he would have craved a level-playing field in terms of points rather than the table to which he and his team returns. One that shows Spurs down in eighth place, now seven points adrift of Chelsea in fourth.
And yet, the passage of time has resolved some of the problems that prompted those comments back in February. Kane is back in training. Son too. Moussa Sissoko is available again. Mourinho has a full squad to choose from once more.
Some will point to the fact that Kane is not match fit. He himself acknowledges that this is the longest that he has gone without playing a game of football since he was five years old.
But that applies to plenty of players now. Kane's comment that "everyone is fully fit and confident we can finish strong" hints at a more bullish mood than the one back in March.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, the England captain said: "From our point of view we are not in any of the other competitions so we have got nine games to concentrate on picking up as many points and trying to get into the Champions League spots."
- Premier League restart - every club assessed
- Premier League - all the new fixtures and dates
- Premier League table - as it stands
Achieving that will be difficult.
Spurs kick off with a big game against Mourinho's former club Manchester United before facing West Ham. There follows a trip to Sheffield United - currently above them in the table.
But it is an opportunity, nevertheless.
A second chance to salvage something from a season that had looked lost.
- £18 Premier League and Football channel offer
- Watch 39 Premier League & 45 EFL games exclusively live
Mourinho's dedication is such that he will be eager to seize it. This is a man who was conducting training sessions in the park during lockdown. A man living at the club's Enfield training ground. Others might lose focus but it seems he is not a man prone to distraction.
These were the actions of a man who is anxious to get back out on the grass. Anxious to resume. Anxious to begin to turn things around.
There is a feeling of a do-over here.
Mourinho was vocal in his belief that his tactical plans were undermined right from the outset when Ben Davies was injured in the 3-2 win at West Ham in his first game in charge.
The lopsided defensive structure that he envisaged was predicated on the belief that Davies could become a third centre-back in possession, allowing Serge Aurier to roam forwards. That idea was postponed and Mourinho was forced to rely on untested youngsters instead.
Now, the options there and elsewhere look more promising again. As well as Kane and Son, there is Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela.
Rotation is possible.
That is important not just because of the hectic schedule upon the resumption but, as Mourinho explained after the win over Aston Villa in February, the effectiveness of his forwards was being hampered by the fact that they were having to play every minute.
It is why, even as others might be uncomfortable about the uncertainty that greets them when football returns, Mourinho may feel that he has some control over the situation again.
A situation that was getting away from him after that Leipzig defeat.
"The first of July with Harry Kane, with Sissoko, with Son, with Bergwijn, with Lucas with Lamela," said Mourinho that evening.
"I would love to be on the first of July, but I am not."
Back then, he wished for the first day of next month.
By the end of it, even amid this unprecedented upheaval, expect a clearer picture of Tottenham's progress under Mourinho to have emerged.