Since taking interim charge of Tottenham following Stellini’s departure, Ryan Mason has done a good job of drawing me back in.
His genuine love for the club and passion on the touchline has played its part, along with the fight and character that the team has shown in the recent games against Manchester United and Liverpool.
There are obviously large question marks over his next step in management, but I believe that, whatever the next move, he will be successful.
He has displayed the signs of someone with a strong backbone, a sharp tactical mind, a good understanding of how to operate in the Premier League and excellent man-management skills.
In the game this weekend against Crystal Palace, we were solid and compact, and it was impressive how Mason changed the team tactically and personnel wise to sure up the defence.
During his short tenure, he has had back-to-back games against two of the best teams in the league. In both games we started poorly before responding well to the pressure and dominating the last sixty minutes of both matches.
Well, the last 59 in Liverpool’s case, thanks to Lucas. But what impressed me was how Mason conducted himself and controlled his team.
Interviews and touchline behaviour:
On the touchline, Mason is gold. His reaction to Eric Dier’s missed header in the second half of the United game was brilliant, and his spectacular head loss during the Liverpool game, pointing at the crowd to signal that they were influencing the decisions, was the highlight so far.
He brings an energy and passion that the crowd feed off, and I like this about him. Conte was similar in his passion on the touchline, and I believe that was a big part of his early success at the club, the way he got the crowd going from his technical box, spurring the players on.
At times during the season, Tottenham have looked as though they lack energy, and a manager who brings this energy is an enormous asset to the club.
In his interviews, Mason usually speaks in a calm and controlled manner, whilst also conveying his passion for the job. It is such a refreshing change from what we had under Conte, who is one of the worst managers to listen to and often gave the impression that he was fed up and feeling negative during his time at Tottenham.
After the Liverpool game, we saw a slightly different side to Mason. The frustrations he obviously felt bubbled over into his interview, as is very understandable during post-match interviews, where there is little time to gather one’s thoughts and emotions are still running high. But he still spoke articulately and came across well.
This is a skill that players and managers need to have, because dealing with the media is such an important part of their job. Contrast this with his opposite number.
I think Klopp is someone who comes across as bitter and aggressive in interviews nowadays. It wasn’t always the case, and when he started at Liverpool he had more humour. Evidence perhaps that it is the manager who sets the tone.
I suspect Mason felt a lot of frustration and anger after the Liverpool game, but to still come out and speak as he did, for a young manager, is impressive. It is a skill that will endear him to clubs, players, and the media itself as he moves forwards in his career.
I think it is too early to judge Mason on what tactical approaches he favours coming into games, as the team he is working with has not been moulded by him and to some extent he has to stick with formations and playing styles that players are used to.
However, I think there is enough evidence to make a fairly in-depth assessment of his in-game management.
Mason has already shown that he is a proactive coach on the sidelines, constantly giving instructions and talking to his bench.
He is not afraid to make big decisions, such as shifting the formation or taking off personnel, and in the games against Man United and Liverpool he made fairly early substitutions, with his first change coming around the 60-minute mark in both matches.
You could argue this is due to the nature of the games, with us being two goals down at half time each time, and that is fair enough, but he has also got it right both times, with us coming back into games.
It has to be said that he has made two very naïve mistakes in the games so far. In the Liverpool game, Pedro Porro was having an excellent second half and providing a real threat on the right flank. His delivery and passing have really improved, and he was showing no signs of fatigue or injury.
For some bizarre reason, Mason decided to bring Lucas Moura on for Porro, despite the fact that Lucas has not had a good game for Spurs in around two years.
He ended up costing us the game with the sort of needless mistake a player low on confidence and game time would make, and unfortunately, that is on Mason.
In the United game, we were in the ascendancy the entire second half until after our second goal. With around five minutes left, plus additional time, Mason decided to bring off Son for Tanganga, which killed our momentum and allowed the game to fizzle out.
You could understand it for tactical reasons, putting on another defender to make sure we don’t concede a third, but the truth was that United had not offered anything going forward for the majority of the second half, and were there for the taking.
I feel as though these two decisions ended up costing us points, but it is part of the learning process for a young manager, and he has certainly been brave, which you would think will pay off for him at some point.
Against Crystal Palace, we never really looked under threat at any point during the game, and that is a credit to Mason. He didn’t need to make changes early, or change much tactically, and the team benefitted from this.
His first change came 80 minutes in, and was a straight swap on the right side of the attack, not upsetting the balance of the team. He stayed as consistent as him team on the touchline, offering encouragement and energy that translated onto the pitch.
Man management skills:
Mason is clearly a very popular figure within the dressing room, but not in the laddish sort of way a former team-mate or a young coach could be, but in a professional and respectful way.
The players understand the ambitions he has and have always spoken highly of him in the media, when given the chance. After the equaliser against Man United, Sonny ran over to Mason to celebrate with him.
Son’s up-turn in form since Conte left the club and brilliant performance against Liverpool is no coincidence, and it looks as though he is feeling the love again.
There has also been a great fight and character shown in the team since Conte and Stellini left, despite the atrocious defending, and again credit must be given to Mason for this.
What is the next step for Mason?
One thing is for certain in my mind, at this stage, Mason cannot be the permanent manager of Tottenham. It is far too early, and there is plenty of time for that to happen perhaps further down the line.
I think he needs to go away and build his own career, start in the Championship or League One, or maybe even take over a foreign team and follow in the footsteps of someone like Graham Potter. He needs experience, to learn, to build his philosophy.
And then, when the time is right, I really do believe that he will be the permanent manager of Spurs. I cannot wait for that day as I love Mason, but for now, we must look elsewhere.
The signs are promising, and for my money, he is already better than Arteta.
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