It happened. #PocheOut #MouIn
Let’s get to some analysis.
As I noted yesterday, Mourinho is inheriting a squad that is not accustomed to playing his usual low-block, counter attacking style but, oddly enough, though it will be a change for the team, the style may actually suit them. Let’s look at five players who are likely to benefit from Mourinho’s arrival and three who may find themselves on the outs.
The biggest winner is likely Toby Alderweireld. The Belgian defender’s career had somewhat stalled of late after 2-3 seasons where he was arguably the best defender in England. Fitness issues, relational problems with Pochettino, and a bizarre lack of transfer interest over the past two summers all contributed to a sense of stagnation with Alderweireld. But now he is working with the manager who reportedly was keen to sign him two summers ago.
It’s not hard to understand why Mourinho would like Alderweireld. He’s a brilliant, tidy defender who somehow manages to stop opposing attacks while almost never fouling or giving the ball away cheaply. He’s also the best passing center back in England—which should make him a huge asset in a counter attacking system like Mourinho’s.
Given the lack of interest from other clubs, don’t be surprised if Mourinho’s arrival leads to Alderweireld signing a short-term extension with Spurs.
Though it sometimes is said that Mourinho doesn’t value players known for their creative flair—see his decision to sell both Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne while at Chelsea—that’s not entirely accurate. Mourinho hates players that don’t work hard defensively within his system.
But if a player is willing to work, Mourinho will use him—and often to great effect. Recall how effectively he used Willian during his time at Chelsea or Wesley Sneijder at Inter. Dele is the kind of player Mourinho will love to work with—an industrious, intelligent runner who also is an elite attacker. Look for him to show up in a midfield three as a shuttler or as a number 10 linking attack and midfield in a 4-2-3-1.
Here’s what we know about Kane: His days as an elite mobile striker who puts up Lewandowski like numbers and is a pressing machine at the top of a high press are likely at an end.
Here is something else we know about Kane: He’s an excellent facilitator up top and is big enough to be a more than capable target man. Now imagine Kane as an outlet for long balls from deep positions who then plays quick layoffs for fast wingers or Dele Alli. The Kane we saw during the short peak of last year’s Air Raid attack could be Kane’s future—if he has a future as an elite striker, which is still an open question. That said, it is possible that Mourinho is a better option for helping Kane reach his former heights. Both Didier Drogba and Diego Milito put up exceptional numbers for Mourinho and both were limited in ways similar to Kane’s new apparent limitations after his many ankle injuries.
Dier has been the odd man out at Spurs for awhile now, plagued by fitness issues for the last couple of seasons and struggling for form this year. But Mourinho loves defensive midfielders who understand their role within a system and provide stability at the base of midfield while also shielding the defense.
He does not have many elite skills, but peak Eric Dier is an incredibly smart player whose ability to read the game allows him to anticipate attacks before most players can, which in turn compensates for his lack of athleticism and pace. In this respect, he is very similar to Mourinho favorite Nemanja Matic. Look for Dier to be the deeper of the two midfielders in Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1, likely playing alongside Tanguy Ndombele who, in the best possible scenario, would have a role comparable to that of Cesc Fabregas in Mourinho’s most recent title-winning side at Chelsea.
Mourinho has in the past mentioned that he specifically targeted Sanchez in the Europa League final when the Colombian defender’s Ajax faced Mourinho’s Manchester United. Additionally, Sanchez has struggled to recreate the form that made him look such a promising prospect in his first season at Spurs. He has struggled to track the ball in the air and has sometimes lost track of his man in the box. Those are the kind of mistakes that could lead to a quick exile under Mourinho, particularly if the notoriously stubborn Portuguese already does not rate Sanchez.
Eriksen is the closest thing Spurs have to a Juan Mata or Kevin De Bruyne figure: an elite creator who needs to be in very particular roles to thrive. Prior to last season it was thought by many that Eriksen could thrive as a free eight in a 4-3-3 system or perhaps even as the more creative half of a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1. After his struggles last season being used in such a role, it is very hard to maintain that belief.
It seems that Eriksen needs to be used in a 4-2-3-1 and be given a relatively free role either as a wide creator or a number 10. Given such a role, Eriksen is likely still an elite, Champions League caliber playmaker who will have a bright future somewhere next season, perhaps in Spain with Real Madrid or Barcelona as a discount signing or perhaps with a resurgent Italian giant, such as AC Milan. But his days as a regular starter at Spurs are likely numbered as it is unlikely that Mourinho would adapt his system to accommodate Eriksen. We already know that he wouldn’t do that for Mata or De Bruyne so there is little reason to think he would for Eriksen.
The surest way to get banished by Mourinho is to be a gaffe prone defender whose mental mistakes routinely put his own team under pressure. And, well... Aurier is notorious for that. Some managers might not be bothered given the Ivorian’s other qualities—he’s still the best athlete Spurs have at right back as well as the fastest option the team has there and its best attacker. If the manager were Eddie Howe, then you might expect Aurier to have a new chance at making the first choice right back role his own. But players like Aurier do not last long with Mourinho. Look for him to follow Eriksen out the door next summer at the latest and more likely in January.