Footballnus Exclusive: The story of Jose Mourinho's failure at Tottenham - Part 2

Footballnus Exclusive: The story of Jose Mourinho's failure at Tottenham - Part 2

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho's time at Spurs is done and he will now look forward to the next job with learnings from his last two. Where does he go from here? (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Yesterday we brought you an exclusive look into the failed reigns of Jose Mourinho at Tottenham, here's the concluding part

...At the same time, more and more players were alienated by Mourinho’s behaviour. And it was not just Dele and Harry Winks, who were the two who found their playing time most cut down this season.

The performances of almost the whole team from January onwards, especially in three straight defeats to Liverpool, Brighton and Chelsea spoke of a dressing room that had been sapped of confidence and belief by the manager’s attacks. 

All of the unity of the Pochettino era had been shattered. 

“Four or five players absolutely hate him, four or five like him, four or five just aren’t arsed,” said another club source earlier this month. “He just splits the camp, because of what he says and how he says it.”

It was not only the dressing room who were unhappy with the way Mourinho spoke to and about the players. That dissatisfaction extended to the club as well.

Tottenham knew how much damage Mourinho was doing through his comments. 

Staff had been left embarrassed by how he would talk to the squad. Players such as Doherty had found their confidence shattered by the way the manager would criticize them. 

And while the club had told Mourinho to stop hammering the players after games, it did not always make a difference.

When Spurs went to the London Stadium to face West Ham United on February 21, they lost yet again. 

Mourinho again turned the blame away from himself. “I think for a long, long time,” he said in his BBC interview after the game, “we have problems in the team that I cannot resolve by myself as a coach.”

Mourinho knew better than to repeat those words in his post-match press conference but yet again the players knew that their manager thought it was their fault and not his.

Tottenham's deadly duo Son and Harry Kane

Mourinho was not universally unpopular

A couple of the club’s younger players, Alfie Devine and Dane Scarlett, regularly trained with the first team and felt encouraged by the manager’s approach. 

Mourinho stopped by at the medical when Devine joined from Wigan Athletic ahead of this season.

When the midfielder clashed with Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater, an England international and Premier League title winner, in an under-23s game in December, Mourinho subsequently sought Devine out to praise his character and courage to go up against such a high-profile opponent.

There was a brief upturn in results in late February and early March when a series of easier fixtures — and the return of Bale to the first-team — offered a sense that things were improving and Tottenham might be able to leave the misery of the winter behind them. But that all evaporated in Croatia on March 18.

Tottenham’s 3-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the second leg of a Europa League last 16 tie will go down as the nadir of the Mourinho reign but in many ways, it was not a surprise. 

Tottenham froze under pressure, looked clueless as to whether they should attack or defend and ended up losing the game, and being eliminated, in extra time. 

It was one of the most humiliating defeats of Mourinho’s whole career.

Predictably enough, he insisted afterwards that he had prepared his players the right way, and that he had told them to try to win the game on the night rather than sitting on their 2-0 first-leg lead. 

He even detailed how he had shown his players goals scored by Mislav Orsic, who scored a hat-trick, to prove he had not been caught off guard, even if his players had been.

Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris during Tottenham vs Chelsea

Worse was to come when Hugo Lloris, the long-standing club captain, and a man who chooses his words carefully, revealed the problems and divisions inside the camp in a post-match TV interview.

Speaking of a “lack of basics and lack of fundamentals” at the club, goalkeeper Lloris implored his teammates to “follow the way of the team”. 

When the players returned to London to prepare for their weekend game away to Aston Villa, sources say the atmosphere at the club was “horrendous”.

By this point, Mourinho had few allies left at Tottenham. Not only had he fallen out with the players but, according to multiple sources, many colleagues had been put off by his negative mood and demeanour. 

More than one source drew a contrast between the approach of Pochettino, who tried to create an inclusive environment and Mourinho, who essentially retreated into his bunker in the final months.

As results turned against him, Mourinho found almost no one was left on his side. “You always know what you’re going to get with Mourinho,” said one former colleague. 

“But it is still very unpleasant when you do get it.”

When things are going against Mourinho, he likes to fall back on the grand gesture. 

Having seemingly exhausted the avenue of criticizing the players for a response, the only lever he had left to pull was the team selection. 

So when Spurs went to Villa Park three days after Zagreb and just before the March international break, he picked one of his most surprising teams of the season, bringing back Joe Rodon, Japhet Tanganga, Lo Celso and Vinicius.

Tottenham looked shaky at first but managed to win 2-0. But when Mourinho tried to pick the same team for the trip to St James’ Park as Spurs season resumed after last month’s internationals, he could not reproduce the same shock effect. 

The players were increasingly inured to Mourinho’s tactics. 

He could keep trying to shock them but it was no longer having any impact. 

After seeing his team concede yet another late equalizer to draw 2-2 with Newcastle, Mourinho made his last but deepest attack on his own team, telling the BBC the difference between now and the defensive stability of his early years was a case of “same coach, different players”.

When another second-half collapse saw Tottenham beaten 3-1 by Manchester United a week later, Mourinho complained about how he was constrained, and no longer able to say what he really thought.

“I can’t say what I think,” he said. “You know that. You sometimes want to bring me to deep questions, to deep analysis, but then when I go, I realize that I cannot go.”

In his final pre-game press conference ahead of Friday’s trip to Goodison Park, Mourinho boasted about how “after the (United) game you did not get from me one single negative word about the attitude and the commitment of my players.”

The message from the club had finally got through to him, but too late to save his job.

When Mourinho was unveiled as Tottenham manager in November 2019, he predicted that his team would be able to win the title in the 2020-21 season. But he also issued a warning, one that was to effectively predict his eventual failure.

Mourinho argued that football was changing faster than ever before, that players were becoming more powerful, and that coaches have to adapt to that.

“It’s modern football,” he said. “When my father was a player, before the Bosman law, the players used to play 20 years in the same club. 

The same player next to him, the same guy in the dressing room, the same centre-back in front of the keeper, for 15, 20 years. 

After the Bosman law, everything changed. In relation to us coaches, in some parts because of you (the media), we lost that stability, it’s lots of pressure.

“Even for the nature of society now, it looks like everything is fast, even the relationships are fast. Players can get tired of each other, they can get tired of the manager. Everything looks like it’s faster, so we need to change.”

The story of Mourinho’s career is that he enjoyed great success in his first decade, working with a generation of players who have now all retired: Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder, Diego Milito and the rest. 

But the next generation of players — the millennials and Gen Z players — simply do not react well to his methods.

That was true at Real Madrid, where he won the title but fell badly out with the dressing room. 

That was true back at Chelsea, where again he won the league before his reign collapsed in the third season amid what their then-technical director Michael Emenalo called “palpable discord”.

And it was certainly true at Manchester United, where Mourinho was not able to get through to Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and the rest. 

His time at Old Trafford was not a complete failure — he won a League Cup and a Europa League — but he was not able to compete with Manchester City, and he left another toxic mess behind him, with the fans at odds with the players.

Pogba’s comments to Sky Sports last week show how much more the United players enjoy playing for successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than they did for Mourinho.

“I like Jose, but he is disconnected from the new generation of players, and from the new generation of coaches,” says one leading coach. “But he is stuck in his ways.”

At Tottenham, Mourinho ultimately found himself trapped in the same dynamic.

His methods only produced a brief upturn in form — not long enough to win anything — before they started to alienate the dressing room. 

The players did not like being talked to as Mourinho talked to them, they did not enjoy his football or his training sessions.

The pattern of Mourinho’s reigns at United and Tottenham was precisely the same. 

The players got tired of the manager, just as Mourinho predicted himself


Information from The Athletic, Reuters and London times are included in this article

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Footballnus | Get the latest football news, highlights, videos, and transfer gossip: Footballnus Exclusive: The story of Jose Mourinho's failure at Tottenham - Part 2
Footballnus Exclusive: The story of Jose Mourinho's failure at Tottenham - Part 2
Footballnus Exclusive: The story of Jose Mourinho's failure at Tottenham - Part 2
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