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Expect Tottenham to go all in on the cup competitions in 2020

The dust has settled. Let’s talk about the future.

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Tottenham Hotspur Training Session Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

I hope everyone has recovered from the last two days. If you haven’t, you get a pass because it’s been whirlwind.

Quick Recap: All hell has broken loose. Pochettino is out. Mourinho is in. Dogs and cats are living together. I’ll need to check with Doctor Venkman to see if human sacrifices are happening, though.

Currently, I feel like Hubert “Happy” Hopper in the 1939 classic film Mr. Smith Goes To Washington where he has to flip a coin to decide who to push for U.S. Senator and the coin lands on its edge, leading him to choose the unlikeliest candidate for the job instead of the stooges that his superiors want. He gets Mr. Smith to agree, gets him up to speed, and then Mr. Smith asks a simple, yet poignant question:

What now?

That’s where we’re at with this whole situation. Now that José Mourinho is in charge, we are back to analyzing what is in the immediate future for the club. We still have a squad that was underperforming and in need of refreshing. Reading multiple pieces from other journalists today, I’ve somewhat put together a timeline I’m confident in:

The next few weeks are busy...

Spurs have twelve matches between now and the beginning of 2020: Ten EPL matches and two UCL matches. Included in those matches are:

  • A trip to West Ham United this Saturday.
  • A chance to lock up a spot in the UCL knockout round against Olympiacos and, later, Bayern Munich.
  • Manchester United at Old Trafford, which will be Mourinho’s first visit since being sacked by the Red Devils last year.
  • A home match against Chelsea on December 22. I’m sure the media will go nuts for the Mourinho vs. Lampard Derby.

Throughout this run, we’re going to see Mourinho’s idea for this squad. I wouldn’t expect much in the way of pressing. We’ll more than likely see counter-attacking football. The big question is who are going to be the talismans of this group? There’s plenty of reports saying that Kane, Dele and Sonny, will be the focal points. A healthy Erik Lamela will probably get a chance to prove himself as well.

Michael Cox of The Athletic explained yesterday why Dele is almost a surefire choice to be the man Mourinho leans on the most and this quote from Mourinho sums it up the best:

“For me, the No 10 is a very special player in my team,” Mourinho explained when manager of Chelsea in 2015. “In a system of two midfield players and a No 10, I demand a lot from a No 10. Every position is important, but it is an important position. I like a No 10 to score goals. I like a No 10 to get in the box… No 10 for me is a No 8-and-a-half when the team loses the ball and a No 9-and-a-half when the team has the ball.”

The defense is going to be under the most pressure to show they belong. Mourinho absolutely loathes defenders who are sloppy. Right now, I’m expecting Toby Alderweireld to be back in the regular lineup while the other CB spot is a dogfight between the remaining defenders. Fullbacks are a huge toss up as well, but my gut says we see Davies and Foyth to start while Danny Rose will get playing time as well.

What about the January window?

January is usually pretty quiet for a lot of clubs, but with a changing of the guard and Spurs in need of a refresh, this could be a busy time for Tottenham. Mourinho will still have want away players and he’ll also have his own selections to sell and buy. Of course, all of this that I’m about to speculate could be moot because The Guardian has said there won’t be a transfer kitty to work with in January. Let’s assume that Hytner is wrong and there’s money to play with.

Christian Eriksen is probably beyond salvaging so if any kind of deal comes along that isn’t a slap in the face, I’d be pretty surprised if Spurs didn’t take it. He may also stick to his guns and run down his contract.

Serge Aurier and Victor Wanyama will probably be gone sooner rather than later, though Aurier may have to wait until summer due to depth problems at right back unless Kyle Walker-Peters is brought back into the mix.

The weird one is Harry Winks. He doesn’t feel like a Mourinho-style player at all, but the good thing about these reboots is that players will get a chance to show in training and, hopefully, in matches what they can do. Winks could earn his spot or be sold off quickly. I don’t feel like there’s a middle ground.

Expect there to be links to players like Benfica CB Ruben Dias, a 22-year-old who fits the mold of a Mourinho defender. There’s the possibility of rekindling the Bruno Fernandes interest, though that may be for the summer window. Raphaël Guerreiro at Borussia Dortmund, who can play midfield and left back in a pinch, will also certainly get a link now that Mourinho is in charge.

After that, it’s going to depend on whether or not Luis Campos joins Tottenham as sporting director and starts targeting players for the summer. Sky Sports did report Wednesday evening that Campos is open to the idea and it seemed Lille were okay to talk about possible compensation if needed. Reports are all over the place as to whether or not Levy wants to make that type of move.

So...we’re going for trophies, right?

Spurs are going to have simple goals for the rest of the season:

  • Regain overall form.
  • Respectable finish in domestic play.
  • Go all out in cup competitions.

Tottenham are already eliminated from the Carabao Cup, which means they have the Champions League and FA Cup still ahead. The FA Cup is currently in the second round, so Spurs will find out their first opponent after that round is completed. Spurs are well out of the title race in the league and while they’re eleven points out of top four, it’s not crazy to think they can turn things around as there are still 26 matches left in the league.

It feels like Mourinho has something to prove, given all his accolades. There’s no question that he’s probably furious at the way his run at Manchester United ended, so this could be his way of proving to everyone in the football world that he still has it. A motivated Mourinho with a squad hungry to show the same could be fun as hell to watch.

Assuming that Spurs take care of business against Olympiacos to qualify, I would bet that Mourinho’s focus on that Round of 16 matchup will start about seventeen seconds after he finds out who Spurs draw. There would be no better way to stick it to his critics than to win silverware in his first season in charge. It’s not crazy to think it could happen, considering the run to the final last season. Making a run at the FA Cup is far more plausible and realistic, but why set the bar low? The game is about glory, so go for the whole enchilada and be legends.

Summer is going to be unpredictable and probably crazy.

I think it’s safe to say we all have absolutely no idea what the summer will look like under Mourinho. We’ve seen flimsy reports that the appointment of the Portuguese manager might change the minds of a couple players and get them to stick around, but there will be movement.

Given the debacle Spurs have gone through that led us to today, the club will hopefully have learned from their mistakes and refresh the squad in a proper way. The players I mentioned in the January window, if any of them don’t move then, will definitely move front and center. Defenders are certainly going to be on the menu as the back four is in desperate need of an overhaul.

I can easily make a case to add on the two Lille stars-in-waiting, Victor Osimhen and Boubakary Soumare. When a manager adds two assistants from the same team, it’s safe to say they’re going to push hard for the players they think are ready to break out.

While Soumare is going to get plenty of attention because he looks every bit a star central midfielder in the making, Victor Osimhen would legitimately excite me. Take a look at his Statsbomb:

If that doesn’t get you all hot and bothered, take a look at his highlight video:


I need a nap. Can we wrap this up?

This is trying to make the best out of a wild situation. There wasn’t a single member of the masthead that expected this change to happen this week, but here we are. This is Mourinho’s squad now and we know he’s going to want to establish it as such. While I do not expect Levy to loosen those purse strings too much, he isn’t going to pay one of the biggest names in football in excess of £10m/year and not give him funds to bolster and flip the squad.

The somewhat ironic part of all this is that Pochettino had warned us all of a painful rebuild that was on the horizon for Tottenham Hotspur. None of us thought it would be this painful, most of all Pochettino.