Home » Opinion – What can Mourinho do to overturn Tottenham’s abysmal defensive record

Opinion – What can Mourinho do to overturn Tottenham’s abysmal defensive record

published :

Jose Mourinho has Daniel Levy's backing

Tottenham Hotspur continue to be plagued by defensive problems under Jose Mourinho

The 2019-20 season has been a tricky one for Tottenham Hotspur. After a dismal start to the campaign that led to Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking, Jose Mourinho was brought in during November. It was an appointment that caught many by surprise, given that the Portuguese’s philosophies are a complete antithesis of his predecessor.

There were positive vibes around the club after Mourinho led Spurs to three wins in his first three games. However, things have not been rosy for the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United boss of late.

Just over the last month, Tottenham crashed out of the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. The Lilywhites have also slipped down to 8th place in the Premier League table. Injuries to key players like Harry Kane and Son Heung-min has definitely impacted the results but it is the lack of defensive stability that has continued to hurt Tottenham.

Jose Mourinho

A Leaky Backline

Mourinho has built his entire reputation on creating a strong defensive base at every club he has worked. His success at Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid were built on a tough rearguard that was hard to breach. In fact, his title-winning Chelsea side of 2004-05 boasts the record of fewest goals conceded in a Premier League campaign ever (15 goals).

But at Tottenham, Mourinho hasn’t been able to stamp that authority yet. In fact, we have conceded the second-most number of goals in the Premier League since he took over in November, with only Aston Villa shipping in more.

Individual errors, like the one Hugo Lloris committed against RB Leipzig in the Champions League round of 16, have hurt us. But together as a defensive unit, Tottenham have hardly oozed any sense of confidence and solidity in recent games. And unless that changes, Mourinho would find it difficult to turn around the club’s fortunes.

Possible reasons behind the struggles

As mentioned above, individual mistakes have cost Tottenham on a number of occasions this season. Moreover, there is a feeling that Mourinho has been unable to settle on his preferred formation or defensive personnel as of yet.

Jan Vertonghen

Since taking over the reins, the Portuguese has tinkered with a three-man defensive system, a traditional four-man backline as well as an ultra-defensive five-man wall in the second leg against RB Leipzig. Apart from Toby Alderweireld, the rest of the defenders have been chopped and changed a touch too much.

Using the young Japhet Tanganga in a position that he is not entirely comfortable, Ben Davies’ fitness problems, Serge Aurier’s inconsistencies and Jan Vertonghen’s declining prowess have all contributed towards Tottenham’s defensive woes.

What can Mourinho do to get things back on track?

Back to basics. It is clear that this Tottenham defensive unit needs to work hard on the training ground and get the basics of defending right. It is imperative that Mourinho drills into his players the art of defending the box. It might not be the most pleasing sight on the football pitch but ugly football is the need of the hour for Spurs.

Tottenham resumed training on Tuesday

Perhaps, it is time for Eric Dier to move into the defence as well. The Englishman has been largely used as a defensive midfielder during his spell at Tottenham but has recently reiterated his desire of playing at the back (h/t Independent). His performance as a centre-back in the 1-1 draw against Burnley provided enough evidence that he can be counted upon.

Harry Winks, despite all his positive attributes, is not an archetypal Mourinho defensive midfielder. And with Victor Wanyama gone, it would make sense for the manager to invest in a new No.6 this summer.

A reunion with Rui Faria?

Rui Faria had been Mourinho’s right-hand man, his trusted lieutenant throughout his managerial career. The Portuguese walked side by side with Mourinho as he tasted success at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan Real Madrid and to a certain extent Manchester United.

However, Faria parted ways with Mourinho in the summer of 2018 while he was still in charge at Manchester United. And perhaps it is no coincidence that the Portuguese’s teams have struggled defensively ever since. The Red Devils endured a torrid start to the 2018-19 term, with their defence being all over the place, ultimately leading to Jose’s sacking.

And now, the same trend is being seen at Tottenham as well. While Mourinho is a master tactician, no doubt, it was Faria who oversaw the day-to-day training drills and played a large role in instilling the defensive discipline that his manager sought.

“All of a sudden he [Faria] is gone and apparently, I don’t know, but apparently he was very influential in what he did day to day. He’s [Mourinho] lost that and he does look a bit lonely at times. I think that’s a big part of it,” former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes had said in 2018. (h/t Express)

More Tottenham Hotspur News

Now that Faria has quit as manager of Qatar club Al-Duhail, Mourinho should consider bringing back his brother-in-arms into the fold as he looks to overturn Tottenham’s fortunes.

Subscribe and bring the lane to your mail!

* indicates required

Intuit Mailchimp