The scoreline may not have shown it, but Tottenham Hotspur put in a pretty dominant performance in their 3-2 win over West Ham today at the London Stadium. Spurs got goals from Son Heung-Min, Lucas Moura, and Harry Kane before conceding two late West Ham goals in the waning minutes of the match.
After his first match in charge, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho (and yes, it still feels weird typing that) praised the effort and performance of his players after what he called “a very, very difficult week.”
“If somebody didn’t watch the game and just knows the result they will think it is very, very difficult for us to win. the feeling is that we were closer to 4-0 than West Ham were to 3-1. This is the Premier League, that first goal changed things a little bit. My players also paid the price for a very, very difficult week.
“A week where they arrived from national team, some arrived from difficult matches, some of them traveling, changed the manager, a new guy arrived, new training sessions, new ideas, the emotional thing that surrounds that.
“I don’t think that is ever easy for a footballer to work with the coaching staff and then the next day other people are there. Difficult things to process, so I think physically the team had a break and probably also a little bit scared of that mental barrier of the bad results away. So the last 25 minutes were not easy but I think we played very well for an hour, really, really well and I am very happy.”
Despite not getting on the scorer’s sheet, Dele was clearly the man of the match today, looking bright and active in the hole behind Harry Kane, frequently pushing forward and even swapping positions with Kane as Tottenham tried to open up West Ham’s high line. That was best emphasized in the buildup to Spurs’ second goal, when Dele went low to keep the ball in play on the touchline, a move that found a streaking Son Heung-Min and led to Lucas slotting home to put Spurs up 2-0.
That increase in intensity was not lost on the crowd, and Mourinho said that he’s already starting to play the way he wants Dele to play.
“Dele was like the team, he was brilliant for 60-65 minutes and then he paid the price of the times, so he went a little bit down. He was the old Dele Alli, the Dele Alli of a couple of years ago, that impressed not just England, but the world. He did exactly what I wanted him to do, with two days of work.
“With important selection of information I tried to make clear for him exactly the spaces where we wanted him to play, offensively and defensively, he is an intelligent footballer to understand what we wanted and very, very important for the team. I am really pleased with his performance.
“I tried to give the players comfort and especially in this moment where a little bit of emotion around it and trying to give them comfort by asking of them things that they can give. Sometimes we complicate things and ask things of the players that they’re not ready to give.
“I try to ask the boys, Dele, of course Harry, Son, Lucas, Harry Winks, Eric, I tried to give them exactly what the easiest job is for them, adapted to their qualities and I think Dele feels very comfortable in this role, with freedom but following principles and things that we do in training.”
It’s been nearly a year since Mourinho last managed a Premier League match, and you could clearly see how comfortable he looked on the pitch. Watching Jose on the sidelines, you could tell that he easily slipped back into the role of manager like he was slipping on a comfortable pair of jeans. Speaking to the press, he said he felt like he was back in his element.
“To confess the most difficult moments for me in the last 11 months were the parts of the summer where I didn’t have a pre-season and I was looking at other managers and clubs doing pre-season. The weirdest feeling was when I was going to football stadiums, sometimes I was thinking what am I doing here? In the box or in the Sky studio, what am I doing here? The most weird feeling.
“I belong out there [in the technical area] so today I was where I belong. That’s my natural habitat. Was I extra emotional? No. Was I nervous? No, but I just love it, especially when things go in your direction, of course the best thing in football is to win matches.”
Spurs host Olympiacos on Tuesday, and with a win can qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Their next league match is home to Bournemouth on November 30.