DANNY MURPHY: The cleverest thing Jose Mourinho did was show common sense. This is a very good Tottenham side already
- Spurs went back to basics and Mourinho put his best players in best positions
- His plan was simple and and gave them the platform to cause maximum damage
- Maybe Mauricio Pochettino should have done something similar in recent weeks
The cleverest thing Jose Mourinho did on his Tottenham debut was show common sense. He picked a sensible and balanced line-up who were so dominant the 3-2 scoreline flattered West Ham.
When any team are struggling, as Spurs have been doing, it makes sense to go back to basics. Put the best players where they are most comfortable and effective.
That’s what Mourinho did by employing a 4-2-3-1 system everyone understood. Maybe Mauricio Pochettino, who did a wonderful job, should have done something similar in recent weeks.
Son Heung-min celebrates after scoring the first goal of the new Jose Mourinho era
The beauty of Mourinho’s plan was its simplicity. He included all four of the players who posed the biggest threat to West Ham’s goal — Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli — and gave them the platform to cause maximum damage by telling the other six outfield players the priority was to protect their own goal.
Even the full-backs, particularly Ben Davies, weren’t as adventurous as usual. It was square pegs in square holes. Moura’s best position is wide on the right so that’s where he played. Son made his name on the left and that’s where he played. They both have pace and can run in behind so Mourinho encouraged it, creating space for Kane and Alli.
Alli was a revelation. He hasn’t looked himself this season being shifted from one role to another, but as a No 10 — admittedly against struggling opposition — he was a different player with two holders to protect him and two rapid wide men to seek out with the ball.
Mourinho included all four of the players who posed the biggest threat to West Ham’s goal
We saw all the skills, nutmegs and getting in the box that are Alli’s forte but the most impressive thing was his work ethic. He made things happen . Perhaps being left out of the England squad has given him a little kick up the backside. If Alli plays like he did against West Ham he’ll be in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020.
Another change Mourinho made was moving Eric Dier back into midfield having seen him used at centre-half in Pochettino’s final game against Sheffield United.
Mourinho brought back Toby Alderweireld and while Dier has his critics, we know he can protect the back four as a holder alongside Harry Winks. Like Alli, Mourinho allowed Dier to be the best version of himself and the whole Spurs team looked far better until the last few minutes when they tired.
Mourinho pulls Moura to one side in order to relay instructions to the Tottenham forward
Though it was a bold selection in some ways — Moura hasn’t had much of a look-in this season —Mourinho’s selections elsewhere meant those attacking players could focus on creating and scoring. Tottenham’s first Premier League away win this season was fully deserved. Credit Mourinho for returning to an uncomplicated system.
Whatever was said towards the end of Pochettino’s time this is a good Spurs squad full of quality. I’m sure that’s why Mourinho fancied the job — it was a no-brainer. He’s got a group who aren’t that far away from being one hell of a side. It may need three big signings, maybe four if Eriksen or Alderweireld leave.
Mourinho has always had a world-class holding midfielder. At Chelsea it was Michael Essien first time around; Nemanja Matic at his peak during his second spell. They provided the engine for those title-winning teams and if he could find a similar type for Spurs alongside Winks or Dier, it would allow the more attack-minded Tanguy Ndombele to push forward.
Mourinho celebrates Son’s opener as his reign started off with a victory against West Ham
We have seen in the past couple of years with Fernandinho and Fabinho that it really helps to have a top player protecting and building play in front of the defence. A right-back and centre-half could be in this thinking too.
Mourinho has always wanted the right No9; Didier Drogba, Diego Costa. He has got one in Kane this time. His only thought will be how to play if Kane ever misses a match.
The Special One has never failed to lift silverware at any club and he won’t be thinking his record is under threat at Spurs. When it happens, I am sure Spurs fans will also recognise the part played by Pochettino. His record exceeded expectation but his biggest legacy is the number of players he developed.
For West Ham and Manuel Pellegrini however, it doesn’t look good. Despite the late rally, I fear their poor form has been going on too long to save the manager.
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