In his press conference following Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-1 loss to Sheffield United at an empty Bramall Lane, Spurs manager Jose Mourinho had a lot to say about the mentality of his players, little of it good.
Mourinho implied that after Harry Kane’s first half equalizing goal was controversially ruled out for a handball by Lucas Moura in the buildup, Tottenham wilted under the pressure of trying to come back and didn’t show enough mental fortitude. In comments that rankled many Spurs fans online, Mourinho said that he learned some things about the mentality of his team. The implication of those comments... wasn’t great.
“They scored the goal, the team reacted immediately. We scored and then I think the team felt it too much and when you compete you have to be ready for unlucky situations, ready for a big mistake that your keeper makes, ready for the penalty that some guy misses.
“You have to be ready to cope with negative moments and go until the last minute. In spite of my efforts in the dressing room, now I feel I know more about the profile of my players. I felt that in the second half we wouldn’t be strong enough to cope with a team that when they’re winning just defends and counter attacks. So congratulations to them.”
But interestingly, Tottenham’s newest signing disagrees with his manager. Giving his own comments to the press, Steven Bergwijn said he didn’t think mentality was the issue at all, though he had some strong words about the disallowed goal that might have changed the game had it stood.
“No, I don’t think like this. It is mixed feelings, but I don’t think it affected the players. When you concede a goal and equalize so quickly it is a good feeling, but it is disallowed, it’s really mixed feeling.
“In my opinion it is a goal, [Lucas] can’t put his hands anywhere. They also pushed him in the back, so there are two things wrong.
“I don’t understand [why a free-kick wasn’t given afterwards], maybe it is because we played through but I think he has to give the goal. Where is he supposed to put his hands? It is a goal in my opinion.”
Whatever the reason, the loss has put an almost insurmountable object in front of Spurs in their goal to achieve European qualification for next season. Spurs are now in ninth, seven points outside of the top five. Europa League qualification is a possibility if Spurs can finish at least eighth, but even that looks like a doubt if Tottenham continue to drop points.
Bergwijn, for his part, hasn’t given up hope, and says that if Spurs can win the rest of their matches they can still qualify for the Champions League.
“We have to look game to game and we will see. We have to win every game. We have to forget this game now and look forward. Yeah, it was a bad result today, but we have to go on.”