Tottenham Hotspur have won two matches in a row and have a head of steam heading into the last two matches of the 2019-20 season against Leicester City and at Crystal Palace. However, they’ll need to try and win those matches without one member of their midfield. In his post-match press conference at St. James’ Park yesterday, Jose Mourinho ruled Tanguy Ndombele from featuring for Spurs for the rest of the season.
“The important thing is the players are there to help the team. I know that Ndombele will not help us because his injury will keep him out for the next two matches.
“Maybe Dele can give us a hand in the last match or maybe this weekend. Eric Dier is coming in the last match as another option. Let’s see if we can end the season strong and get that Europa League position.”
“The rest of the season” sounds scary, but the reality is it’s just for the next two matches and ten days due to the compressed nature of the season post-restart. So it’s unlikely that Ndombele has a significant injury, just significant enough. However, considering the fraught relationship between Ndombele and Mourinho, there’s a non-zero percent chance that the 0-0 draw against Bournemouth may have been the last time we’ve seen Ndombele play in a Tottenham Hotspur kit.
Meanwhile after another solid performance off the bench from substitute Steven Bergwijn, who provided an assist to Harry Kane moments after coming in, Mourinho was asked about why Bergwijn hasn’t been starting in the past few games. The notoriously prickly Mourinho bristled at the comment.
“Look, that is the question that normally you do to me but you don’t do to Frank Lampard, Jurgen Klopp, Pep, all the coaches of the big clubs with big players. Frank Lampard plays Pulisic, you don’t ask him why he doesn’t play Hudson-Odoi. With Pep, he plays this guy and plays Bernardo Silva on the bench, you never ask about Bernardo Silva.
“It looks like I am the only guy that has to play 15 players from the start or I am the only guy that doesn’t have the right to have good players on the bench. If I start with Bergwijn you would be now asking what Lucas has to do to start, what Son has to do to start. They have to do nothing, they have to be team players, and team players are players that start, that go on the bench, that come in for half an hour, that come in for one minute.
“How many times has [Wolves manager] Nuno [Santo] left [Adama] Traore on the bench to win matches in the last 30 minutes? You don’t ask Nuno why Traore is on the bench and why he is playing [Diego] Jota or [Daniel] Podence or [Leander] Dendoncker, it’s just me.
“So he doesn’t have to do anything else - he’s a team player, he plays for Tottenham and if Tottenham wants to try and compete against the best teams, Tottenham cannot have 11 good players. It needs more, and we had them on the bench.”
I’ve been extremely critical of Mourinho’s lineup decisions lately, especially as concerning Ndombele, but I have to admit that he has a point here, especially considering Lucas Moura has more than justified his status as a starter over the past two matches. While Bergwijn is taking his opportunities with both hands and probably giving Mourinho a selection headache, that’s a good problem. There are limited minutes left in the current season, but there’s every indication that both Bergwijn and Lucas are going to have plenty of minutes to share over the course of next season, assuming both are still at Spurs when the new campaign kicks off.
With the win, Tottenham moved up to seventh place, four points behind fourth place Leicester, though they could slip a position if Sheffield United are able to beat the Foxes today. Spurs play at home to Leicester this coming Sunday.