Think this is going to be a plea for Spurs to attack more; a jumping on the bandwagon criticism of Mourinho’s alleged more defensive, or in modern parlance, less expansive, style?
If so, then sorry to disappoint.
To deal with the criticisms of Mourinho first, my own personal jury is still out on this one, as it has been since he was first appointed. But, to every expert pundit and inexpert fan harping on about how he has been getting his excuses in early, or at best trying to lower expectations, before every game recently and is responsible for the poor performances, I would say this: were you watching us under Pochettino last season and this? Our performances under Mourinho have been usually no worse and sometimes better than virtually everything under Pochettino, a couple of Champions’ League glory nights apart, at least since the away defeat to Burnley last season. For whatever reason, Pochettino had lost the ability to organise and motivate the team, and only the equally bad form of the likes of the Arse and MFU enabled us to cling on to fourth place and Champions’ League qualification.
As for us sitting back and inviting teams to attack us after taking the lead, as we did against Norwich in midweek, we were also doing this regularly, to the frustration, fury even, of fans, under Pochettino, too. Remember how we dominated away to Inter and PSV in the Champions’ League group away games last season and threw both of them away by doing just that? And how Pochettino, who after all presumably had something to do with coaching them, bemoaned the fact after those games? Game management hasn’t been our strong point for a long time.
We’ve got a lot of new players and a lot of injuries (though it’s worth noting that we played crap towards the end of last season and the beginning of this with both Kane and Son in the team, hence being 14 points off fourth place when Mourinho came in), and I don’t necessarily think Mourinho highlighting these to lower expectations is a bad thing. I mean, all Spurs fans should remember that the signal for Spurs to stop playing well and throw away any hope of winning the league comes when the manager (first Redknapp, then Pochettino) starts talking up their chances of doing just that.
In short, we have a lot of talented players who collectively seem to bottle it when it comes close to winning anything. Bearing that in mind, I genuinely saw our midweek penalty shoot-out as a foregone conclusion in Norwich’s favour. Changing this mindset around will be Mourinho’s biggest challenge. I recommend going all out to find a good, solid player with the strength of character to actually lead, and kick arses if necessary, on the field, if such a creature exists anymore. That, and/or a psychologist. (Forget Glenn Hoddle’s hairdressing faith-healer – that’d be going too far).
There are two other attacks I’d like to address. Firstly, Eric (must be something about that first name) Dier’s attempt to ‘engage’ with an abusive fan. By all accounts, the fact said fan legged it and Eric was slowed down by stewards might have spared us another Cantona situation. But it raises the question of when does the sort of abuse that we fans routinely spew out to members of our team (as do fans of every other team) tip over into something totally unacceptable? Writing these articles, I’ve been guilty on some level, though generally trying to be humorously insulting rather than personally and cruelly abusive. I have, for example, in the past described Lamela as Lamentable and said that Dier is an anagram of his performances. And us fans are extremely fickle; abusive one minute, then singing someone’s praise if they score or save a penalty.
So, as Mourinho said, Dier’s action may be unprofessional but it is understandable, particularly when your family are getting an earful. It’s human. I’m an armchair fan, mostly, these days, still prone to hurling abuse at the TV fit to scare my dog. But it’s not meant in any deep way.
I don’t believe for one minute footballers go out intending to play badly – though some do need some lessons on staying on their feet, rather than looking for cheap fouls all the time, Dele Alli (again) take note), nor do they miss goals by being ‘too casual.’ I’m sure they understand that most abuse from the terraces is just fans venting their frustrations, nothing personal. But they are entitled to expect that it doesn’t cross a line into vile personal abuse. Particularly when they all know – as do we – that even the players we consider ‘terrible’, ‘f*cking useless’, or ‘not fit to wear the shirt,’ have the sort of ability that the average fan can only dream about.
At the end of the day, players are going to struggle to attack on the field if they feel they are constantly under attack from the terraces.
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