Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has claimed that Jose Mourinho has successfully recreated the Tottenham Hotspur team in his own image and that Spurs are now a pragmatic, nasty, team obsessed with results.
One thing that was evident for all those who watched Amazon’s Spurs documentary was the Portuguese coach’s repeated insistence that the squad was too nice and had to develop a more competitive edge when they are on the field.
Keown believes that this Tottenham team is now a different kettle of fish to the one we saw last campaign with the North Londoners currently sitting top of the table.
He wrote in his column for The Daily Mail: “What stood out in the All or Nothing documentary of last season was how Mourinho told his new team what he thought of them almost immediately. ‘A very nice group of guys,’ he said. ‘For 90 minutes you have to be a bunch of…’
“Suffice to say Mourinho wanted his team to be nasty. He wanted his players to pick up on his combative personality and apply that on the pitch. He wanted their mindset to be mean, aggressive, ruthless. He wanted them to be addicted to winning, obsessed with results.
“In that documentary, after Eric Dier and Dele Alli argue in the dressing room following a defeat by Wolves, Mourinho goes through the team listing the good individual performances of players. Then he says: ‘But this is not about being happy with individual performance. It’s about being happy with the result.’
“Mourinho is now getting the results he wants from key players. One of those is Harry Kane, who is scoring, assisting and posing problems by dropping deep, as noted in this column previously.
“Another providing results is Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. The last time I spoke to him, he was at Southampton last year and he told me: ‘We want to be disgusting to play against.’
“No Premier League player won possession more than Hojbjerg in 2019-20. He is streetwise and has brought that to Tottenham. Maybe in the past, opponents would look at Spurs and think they had a soft underbelly. ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham,’ Sir Alex Ferguson was famously quoted as saying in a team talk.
“But Hojbjerg is helping change that perception — and he can play, too. No player has passed the ball more in the Premier League this season than the Dane.
“Gareth Bale is moving through the gears, having played his first full 90 minutes since early September for Wales during the break. Maybe he is now poised to explode back on to the Premier League scene. Mourinho’s management of Bale has been impressive.”
Keown admitted to being impressed by how the current Spurs side can now mix up their styles based on the opposition they come up against.
He also claimed that Mourinho is looking like he is now at his element in N17 and is as motivated as he’s ever been.
The former Arsenal man added: “Still, that shows Mourinho’s competitiveness, and Tottenham under their Portuguese coach have become a results-based team who manage games very well. They can press high with success, or sit deep and make themselves hard to beat.
“They have blistering pace which they use on the break with Kane showing great desire and linking with Son Heung-min, whose finishing is outstanding.
“Mourinho has made good decisions with his staff. His assistant, Joao Sacramento, was hand-picked and is one of the best young coaches in the game. Former captain Ledley King is another in his backroom staff, and it’s good to see Mourinho has recognised Dier’s rightful position in central defence.
“This is a manager who has now been in the Tottenham job for a year and he is looking as addicted to getting results as ever.”
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