Can Spurs challenge for top-four without Pochettino?
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To dare is to do. The Tottenham Hotspur motto. Well, for the supporters crying #PochOut after every negative result, Daniel Levy didn’t just dare, he did it. Mauricio Pochettino was shown the door by Tottenham Hotspur. Hopefully, Jose Mourinho wasn't sitting in the reception area outside Levy's office when the axe fell.
Sacking a manager is almost like hitting a reset button in a simulation game, especially when they’ve been around for a while and have made significant progress. Now, Mourinho has to do it all over again.
In his five-and-half year stint in north London, the Argentinian transformed the club, making a habit of finishing in the top four consistently. The term ‘overachievers’ was a stock phrase in the media given Spurs' limited budget in comparison to their top-six rivals. Reaching the Champions League final last term was an achievement in itself but events took an ugly turn following that night in Madrid.
After 12 league games, the Lilywhites are languishing at 14th, with a corresponding amount of points but without a win in their last five outings. Three new summer arrivals stirred optimism that soon vanished into thin air or, more accurately, the physio's office. No one expected the side would go astray so early in the season.
Injuries played their part. Tanguy Ndombele featured intermittently, Giovani Lo Celso didn't make his full debut until November's first week. Ryan Sessegnon still waits for his. Hugo Lloris became a victim of his own error.
Injuries aren’t the sole reason for Spurs downfall though. Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen's contract situations became toxic. The squad’s collective dip in form, save for Heung-Min Son, should also be held accountable.
Just three victories, 17 goals conceded and a single clean sheet in the Premier League justify Tottenham's lot. The situation hasn’t been grim throughout, Spurs showed flashes of their former selves. It never lasted for the full 90. Arsenal, Olympiacos, Leicester and Liverpool all fought from behind to gain results.
The winter transfer window can bring relief, particularly if Spurs receive a decent offer for Eriksen. Before they can entertain such hopes, they have a mountain to climb. A tough and tight fixture schedule looms. Mourinho, who has never taken charge mid-season in his career, must rely on the current squad before looking anywhere else.
Spurs haven’t won an away league game since January. West Ham United is the first opportunity to change that but the North Londoners face 11 fixtures 40 days. Five come against teams in the Premier League's top half: Bournemouth, Manchester United, Wolves, Chelsea, and Brighton. Another is a trip to Munich to answer for the 7-2 mauling Bayern bestowed on the side last month.
Three points are imperative in every domestic affair if Tottenham expects to compete for the Champions League this term. Juan Foyth, Eric Dier and Sessegnon all return from injury, providing greater flexibility during the fixture pile-up.
Dele Alli is finally finding his feet. The attacking midfielder remained at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during the international break. He will be relatively fresh. Mourinho can only hope he is ready to help Harry Kane transfer his international scoring form to the club.
Mourinho and Spurs' chances to make the Champions League places are slim. The Portuguese may focus on the FA Cup and Champions League until summer, doing just enough in the league to stay above the relegation fray and give him the opportunity to rebuild in the summer. There can be no doubt Spurs style will change whether or not attitudes do. Over the coming months, Tottenham faithful may learn to be careful what they ask.