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Mourinho embraces the “challenge” of turning Tottenham’s fortunes around

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Amidst he worst run of form in his whole career, if anyone’s going to back Jose Mourinho, it’s Jose Mourinho.

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

There’s no way to sugarcoat Tottenham Hotspur’s current run of form in the Premier League right now. In short, it’s bad — literally the worst run of form that Jose Mourinho has had in his entire career up to this point. The string of league matches Spurs have played in 2021 has split the fanbase nearly into two overlapping camps: those who blame Mourinho for the poor return, and those who blame the players, especially the defense.

But if anyone’s going to back Jose Mourinho to pull Spurs out of their funk and back to respectability, it’s Jose Mourinho. He was directly asked about this period of bad results in the press conference ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League home match against Wolfsberger AC, and to his credit he did not shy away from the responsibility.

“It’s a positive thing that you say I am not used to it and my career is being the opposite of this. That’s a great thing. But I want to know which coach in the end of his career can say everything was blue sky and never a little bit grey or cloudy or even dark. Unless it’s a coach that was always in dominant clubs where the clubs were always the top clubs in countries and then it’s more difficult to have difficult moments but I think just show how beautiful my career has been.

“Does this make me happy? No. Does this make me depressed? Not at all. It’s a challenge. I always feel that I work for the clubs, I work for the players, for the supporters of the club. I always feel that I have to give them so much and the fact I’m giving them hard work but not the results is something that of course hurts me and is a great challenge for me because I believe I can give it. I gave it everywhere I have been and I want to do it and I’m more motivated than ever and I believe that at least it is what I feel. I never felt what normally coaches feel when the results are bad.”

Fully half, if not more, of the fanbase is now calling for Mourinho to be fired at the moment, a number that feels low considering that there hasn’t been fans in attendance at Spurs matches for almost the whole of the season. But Mourinho went on to say that he feels not only positive about his ability to turn things around, but also support from the hierarchy at Tottenham, despite the rumors swirling about his tenure.

“When the results are bad normally when the results are bad the coach is a lonely man. That’s what we normally are and in this club, in this building I never felt that. Never. I always felt, not just respected of course but always felt supported, that everyone is together in the same boat. By one side nobody is happy but by another side nobody is depressed and I feel positive. Maybe it can look a bit weird for you, losing so many matches and your positive but yes I’m positive. I cannot say I’m happy but I would say I’m not unhappy.

“I wake up in the morning and I want to come back to work I arrive in the building and feel the motivation in everyone. I love to train. People [are] loving training and everyone is working as hard as it’s possible with so many matches and we are positive. We want to play tomorrow, we want to play on Sunday, we want to try to come back as soon as possible to good results and we are positive.”

Of course, these quotes seem at odds to Jack Pitt-Brooke’s alarming article in The Athletic (£) this morning, which references “locker room insiders” at Tottenham who paint a very different picture about the Spurs’ squad and their support of Mourinho and his methods, which Jose refers to as “second to none.” In contrast to Mourinho’s depiction, Pitt-Brooke notes that there’s a sizable contingent of Spurs players who are unhappy not only with the results, but also Mourinho’s methodology.

So much attention on nullifying the strengths of the opponent means that Tottenham do not focus as much time on developing and improving their own attacking game. The priority is defence and counter-attack. Numerous sources say this is why Spurs’ attacking football has looked limited at times this season because there is no plan for how to build out from the back, play through the thirds and create chances in the opposition box.

In that sense, it is the polar opposite of how Pochettino works. Now in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, he always had a clearly structured method for moving the ball forward from one end of the pitch to the other, how the goalkeeper plays the ball, where the centre-back splits and drops to, where the full-back moves to, and so on. With Mourinho, there is no such coordinated plan. “Everything has changed, even the training is so defensively minded now,” one dressing-room source says. “There is no plan to move the ball forward. The plan is to defend, boot the ball up to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, and that’s it.”

— Jack Pitt-Brooke, The Athletic

Clearly not everyone is happy with the way things are going, and Mourinho would certainly say that he is among that group. Jose closed his press conference by talking about experience — specifically how his years in the game have helped mellow him emotionally to the point where he thinks he is able to handle adversity much better than he had earlier in his career. That experience is why he still thinks he can lead Tottenham Hotspur to good things this season.

”Thank god I am not the manager I was! Thank god! Because if there is no evolution in us I also want to believe that to think you are a better journalist today than you were 10 years ago or so. Thank god! Probably I agree with you, I would not be as calm and confident and in control of my emotions because during my career I had sometimes problems not in relation to results.

“As you know I did not have many bad runs of results. But with day to day problems that happen many times in clubs with all of us I reacted previously in a much more emotional way and instead of helping myself and the ones around me I was even creating a kind of conflict situation that I had previously. So just to give you an example. I left Chelsea as a champion. So maybe your age and experience as a person and journalist makes you realise that we people with more experienced, we are better equipped to cope with negative moments.

“I am calm. I am in control of my emotions and I can not switch on and switch off, I am happy and unhappy. My nature does not change. I lose a game and of course I am not happy. But maturity hopefully helps. I feel very confident and I believe we are going to improve and I believe that I will be in Tottenham’s history for the good reasons and not for the bad reasons.”

Tottenham’s next match is at home against Wolfsberger AC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in a rare Wednesday Europa League match. Kickoff is noon ET, 5 p.m. BST.