Many were surprised at the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino from his job at Spurs, announced on Tuesday evening. That his replacement, Jose Mourinho was announced the morning after with almost indecent haste tells us that he was lined up a while before the news of Poch’s departure was made public. It seems like the home draw with Sheffield United was the final nail in the coffin of the Argentinian, who by all accounts would have been happy to move on from the club last summer. However, he remained, presumably because a job he did want to go to was not available, and because resigning from Spurs would have sacrificed the big pay-off he will now receive.
On one level, it’s a bit of a relief here. Pochettino could have built a dynasty at Spurs if the progress of recent seasons had continued, but ultimately, his passion for the job, and the gradual loss of motivation amongst his players (not helped by the club’s frugal wage policy) did for him. Results have not been good enough for a long time, masked by the run to the Champions League final last season, a competition is which Spurs rode their luck so frequently it really felt like their name was on the trophy.
The arrival of Mourinho on that score is perhaps significant. Spurs have won only two League Cups since 1991, the last of those in 2008, when Juande Ramos was the manager. A long time ago. Aside from a bit of TV punditry and making the odd advert, Mourinho has been relatively quiet since his dismissal by Manchester United almost a year ago, but he enjoys living in London and so the opportunity of working at one of the bigger clubs in the capital again was always a possibility.
Now that the decision has been made, Arsenal fans can unite in their expression of distaste for the idea of Mourinho replacing Unai Emery, one that had been touted around in recent days. In fairness, many have remained consistent, never wanting him at the club. Others were open to the idea, not concerned so much with the past, and believed he could improve the team’s ability to get results. Defending and holding onto a lead are certainly areas where Spurs’ new head coach is regarded as being better than Unai Emery.
Ultimately, Mourinho is a results man. If he still has the talent to achieve those by hook or by crook, he certainly has a good chance of bringing silverware back to Tottenham. Don’t even rule out another Champions League final – Mourinho has beaten the odds to win the competition with Porto and Inter in the past. And in spite of their 7-2 demolition at home by Bayern Munich, it’s very difficult to believe Tottenham won’t make the round of 16, looking at the group’s remaining fixtures.
The Spurs fans might not enjoy Mourinho’s style of football, but they’ll accept it if they can see a trophy is a genuine possibility. The real question is whether or not the game has passed Jose by, as it did his old adversary Arsene Wenger. Is the style of football that reached its zenith in that remarkable treble winning season at Inter still going to cut it in 2020, especially given the dark arts are less easier to get away with, now that VAR is in play? Arsenal fans will hope not. Mourinho had a decent enough start at Manchester United, with two trophies in his first season, followed by a runners-up spot in the Premier League the next. However, he then started to fall out with more of his players, as he did in his second spell at Chelsea (after delivering another league title, let it be said). One thing that does look near certain – however successful he might be, it will almost certainly end in tears.
What is significant though is that Spurs have acknowledged the club has started to go backwards under Poch, that he didn’t really want to be there, and that there was no good reason to delay the change. If only Arsenal were as pro-active…