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Mourinho on the defensive but still likely to last the season at Tottenham

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Times are bad, but it’s likely Spurs fans may need to put up with Mourinho at least to the end of the current campaign.

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Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur lost their third straight Premier League match yesterday, falling at home 0-1 to Chelsea. It’s the first time that Spurs have lost three consecutive league matches since 2012, and the first time in Jose Mourinho’s career that he’s lost two straight home matches. Spurs are reeling, currently in eighth place in the table and one point above Aston Villa, who have a match in hand. The football in all three of Spurs’ most recent losses have been insipid performances, devoid of creativity, energy, and positivity, though notably all three have come at least partially without the services of Harry Kane.

The current run has soured a significant portion of Tottenham’s fanbase against Mourinho, a feeling that has precipitated across social media in the absence of fans from football stadiums. In fact, that lack of fans has almost certainly been a mitigating factor in Mourinho’s favor — it’s pretty easy to imagine a 62k capacity crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium booing Mourinho and the players off the pitch after last night’s loss.

Mourinho is certainly feeling the pressure regardless, first inadvisably snapping at a female reporter who asked him about Gareth Bale, and later going on the defensive about potentially winning trophies for Spurs.

However, multiple reports, including Jack Pitt-Brooke in The Athletic and Matt Law in the Telegraph suggest that while Mourinho is not in any imminent danger of being sacked, the Tottenham hierarchy are viewing Sunday’s home match against 19th place West Brom to be a must-win. Pitt-Brooke writes that that Mourinho’s Spurs still being in three cup competitions, including the League Cup final in April, is a point in his favor, suggesting that chairman Daniel Levy wants to give him a change to salvage the situation by winning at least one cup.

Some Spurs fans are already calling for Mourinho’s dismissal but there is little prospect of Levy taking such dramatic and disruptive action in the middle of a season. Especially when Spurs are still competing in three more cup competitions. Those cups are now Mourinho’s best chance of salvation, especially with his side in the League Cup final against Manchester City in April. All Mourinho has to do is win that one game and he can claim his time at Spurs as a success. Win the FA Cup — Spurs’ first in 30 years — or the Europa League — their first European trophy in 37 years and a route into the Champions League — and he will look even better.

— Jack Pitt-Brooke, The Athletic

Law, by contrast, takes a more player-centric focus, hinting that multiple Tottenham players are privately complaining about being “stifled,” and that others are frustrated with the way Spurs are playing football. That’s new, and the first time that we’ve heard anything about what the players are thinking about the current run of form.

Both of these reports lean into the English football media of coloring narrative through vague background sourcing, and so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions and important to view them in that context. It’s also not a given that winning, say, the League Cup would be enough to save Mourinho from Daniel Levy making a change at the end of the season, if results fall away in other competitions.

But what seems clear is that things are starting to come to a head at Tottenham Hotspur. The performances Spurs have put in recently under Mourinho’s leadership have been unacceptable, and the pressure is mounting for him to somehow turn things around and quickly. Whether he’ll be given a chance to bring home a trophy for Spurs may hinge on the next few games.