The trouble with José

Jose Mourinho: It’s all me, me, me. [Pic: Will Oliver/Reuters/Guardian]

It’s been a pretty desperate season to be a Spurs fan.

There was a time not so long ago when things were looking up. In the words of Barbra Streisand, ‘Life was all so different then’. The best time was probably the 2016-17 season, when there was real promise: three players (Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min) each scored more than 20 goals and the team finished second in the league with 86 points. Manager Mauricio Pochettino had brought about an attractive, attacking style of play which pleased crowds and pundits alike. The only fly in the ointment that year was the poor European campaign: after a humdrum Champions League group phase, they dropped down to the Europa League and were then knocked out of the competition by the mega stars of Gent FC.

The following season also went well, finishing third in the Premier League and reaching the last 16 in the Champions League. However, by 2018-19, the wheels were wobbling. Even though the team reached the Champions League final, it didn’t quite feel as though they deserved to be there. Scraping into fourth place in the Premier League seemed about the right level. The goal machine that is Harry Kane did, however, continue his remarkable record with 24 goals in the season, despite missing a slew of matches through injury.

Things were obviously going wrong at the beginning of this season. Hugo Lloris had a terrible injury, Christian Eriksen was obviously unsettled, and Dele Alli seemed to be completely out of form. By 19 November, only three of the first 12 league matches had been won. That was the day on which in what was obviously a pre-planned move by chairman Daniel Levy, Pochettino was sacked and José Mourinho arrived – to what can only be called an indifferent reception from Spurs fans. Things have improved slightly under the one-time Special One, but there has been no real evidence that a return to the Glory Glory days is on the horizon.

And so the interrupted campaign ended yesterday in a predictable dreary fashion, with yet another 1-1 draw, this time with Crystal Palace. Here is Paul MacInnes’s report in today’s Guardian, with two wonderful opening sentences:
It was time for one of those special José moments, where the glowering disappears for just a second and he pays himself a compliment: “Arriving 14th and finishing sixth is not bad at all,” he said. “I’m quite happy to be in the Europa League.”

Sums up Mourinho. Sums up Spurs’s ambition level under Mourinho.

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