Jose Mourinho was faced with more than his fair share of selection dilemmas against Southampton in the FA Cup last night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The head coach was still without long-term absentees Harry Kane and Moussa Sissoko, but also found himself missing Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela on the night.
Christian Eriksen has just been sold, Steven Bergwijn couldn’t play due to FA Cup rules, Harry Winks put in a huge shift against Man City, Dele Alli picked up a knock, and Tanguy Ndombele hadn’t started a match since returning from injury.
In the end, Mourinho went with a front two of Son and Moura, with Ndombele as the creator, and Winks and Dier as holding midfielders. Ndombele was later replaced by Alli.
Mourinho claimed that it was hard to progress the team when he does not have the players he wants to work with due to injury.
On Dele’s race to be fit, he said (Football London): “I met him this morning with the fitness coach and medical department at 11 am. At that moment we didn’t know if he could play. We measured the risks and the capacity to cope with pain and we decided to bring him.
“He was happy to come because he knew we were in big trouble. We knew Lamela and Lo Celso had no chance to be here with muscular injuries and Bergwijn had no chance with the rules of the competition. So Dele made that effort to come on at this moment and connect with Son and the kid Gedson came with energy and fresh legs and I thought he could make a difference for us too. It was so difficult.
“The game may have looked at times that it was out of control but it wasn’t. We knew the direction we wanted to work but of course, they scored the second goal and it was very important the way the team reacted.”
On developing the team and the injuries to Lo Celso and Lamela, he added: “I cannot speak about the progress I want to make because I don’t have the players I want. And the team needs players to progress, collectively, tactically and dynamically. We need the players but we don’t have the players.
“We lose so many. Sissoko, Harry, and today Lamela, Lo Celso and Bergwijn. It is so difficult. One game we have players A, B and C out and then the next game we are without D, E and F. It’s been a very difficult season.
“Do we progress by the mental point of view? Yes. Do we progress by the competitive point of view? Yes. Do we improve the compactness of the team? Yes. Do we improve from a tactical point of view? No, because one day we play with five and the next day we have to play with four. I couldn’t even play with three up, I only had two!
“So we come from a game against City when we played with three up but we came here and had only two. I don’t know if we will have one for the next game. I don’t know if Lucas and Son are going to finish. I don’t know.
“So it’s very difficult to progress the way we want to. It’s more like, let’s build a team to compete in the next match. It’s what we did here. We had 90 minutes in our legs to go face to face with Soton. Basically it’s game to game, building a team with what we have to try to get a result. And the players are being magnificent.”
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