Fans would have been forgiven for expecting Jose Mourinho to give his players a rollicking after the way Tottenham capitulated in the final ten minutes against West Ham on Sunday.
Many would have expected the Spurs boss to come out swinging in the post-match press conference and call his players out in public.
After all, the Portuguese coach has never been shy of criticising his players in front of the media in the past, much to the consternation of some.
It was back in March when Mourinho criticised Tanguy Ndombele in the harshest possible terms after Tottenham’s 1-1 draw against Burnley, calling out his work ethic, insisting that he “cannot keep giving opportunities” to the Frenchman, and even suggesting that Spurs “didn’t have a midfield” in the first-half when Ndombele was on the pitch.
Rarely if ever would one find a manager resorting to such harsh words while talking about his own player to the media but this is not new for Mourinho, as people who followed his relationship with Paul Pogba would be well aware of.
Following Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat in their season opener against Everton, the 57-year-old once again did not mince his words, labelling his players “lazy” for the way they pressed.
For the casual observer, it almost seems like Mourinho is either too honest with the press or cannot help himself when journalists try to bait him into a response after a disappointing result.
Some might view his actions even more cynically and contend that he criticises his players to absolve himself of the blame for bad results.
However, over the past few days, we have seen considerable evidence to the contrary.
The Spurs boss refused to take the bait despite being repeatedly asked about Tottenham’s defensive collapse after the game against West Ham, and offered a more philosophical response, suggesting that these things happen in football.
He insisted to Spurs TV after the game that he had not even discussed the result with his players in the dressing room after the game as the emotions were still raw.
There have since been reports that Mourinho did hold an inquest on Tuesday into how his players managed to throw away what seemed like an unassailable lead, but the fact that he refused to reveal anything publicly is significant.
As was clear from the response on social media, Mourinho could have quite easily let his emotions get the better of him after Sunday’s draw.
For a coach who prides himself on his team’s ability to manage games, there can be nothing more infuriating than seeing your players throw away a three-goal lead in the final ten minutes of the match, particularly considering that David Moyes’ side hardly threatened the Tottenham goal until that point.
Yet, not only did Mourinho keep his composure after the result but his response in his press conference this afternoon when he was asked about Sunday’s collapse, was very telling.
When asked about the final ten minutes against West Ham being described as ‘Spursy’, he responded: “I believe that winning 3-0 in minute 80, we can play 50 more matches and it’s not going to happen again so I don’t want to be sticking on this. No stories about ‘Spursy’ and this kind of thing. We just need to defend better from set-pieces.” (Alasdair Gold)
Dealing head on with issues from Sunday. Giving Sanchez some confidence and hoping he plays back into better form. https://t.co/3QJu8uPhB7
— Vass Koni (@vkon1) October 21, 2020
Of course, the Tottenham head coach might have decided to go easy on his players mainly due to the freak manner in which West Ham got back into the game.
A goal from a set-piece, an own goal and a wonder-strike with the last kick of the game, suggests that luck had an important part to play.
However, what is clear is that Mourinho is much-less emotional than he is given credit for and much more cold and calculating in his decision of what to say publicly and what not to.
In hindsight, even the harshest of Mourinho’s critics will have to begrudgingly accept that his decision to call out Ndombele last season might have been the kick up the backside the midfielder needed.
The 23-year-old looks much fitter than he did last campaign and seems to be finally showing the glimpses of the talent that made Spurs fork out a club-record fee for him last year.
It is not at all far-fetched to suggest that Mourinho calculated in a Machiavellian fashion that Ndombele needed to be called out, and perhaps he has now decided the same with Dele Alli (although he used much less disparaging terms).
Mourinho’s tactics in motivating his players certainly seem completely alien compared to what one would expect from likes of Mauricio Pochettino or Jurgen Klopp, who back their players publicly no matter what.
However, it is now pretty clear that the Spurs boss does not do it because of his ego, and that there is a method to his madness.
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