José Mourinho’s lack of adventure cost Tottenham in the North London Derby
It had looked like Tottenham Hotspur had turned a corner. Five wins on the trot had seen José Mourinho’s side breathe new air and contemplate Champions League qualification once again, but Spurs were brought swiftly back down to earth after losing to Arsenal in the North London Derby at the Emirates Stadium.
While the 2-1 scoreline suggests it was a close game, the truth is that Arsenal were the better team for the majority of the match. The home side showed more invention going forward, and greater intent to do damage in the final third, while Spurs attempts to soak up the pressure and hit Arsenal on the break largely failed. Despite taking the lead through a piece of genius from Érik Lamela, Tottenham failed to cope when Arsenal kicked up a gear, and ultimately left it too late to try and get something from the game.
Plenty of criticism has been levelled at Mourinho this season for Tottenham’s lack of adventure going forward, especially given the supreme attacking talents they have at their disposal. Everyone knows that the Portuguese coach favours a more pragmatic approach when compared with Spurs’ previous boss Mauricio Pochettino, but it has been a source of frustration among supporters that Mourinho has not adopted a style that gets the best out of players like Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Lamela in the biggest games.
This Tottenham team have proven in the past that they can be strong favourites in the bet exchange, and blow teams away when on top form, yet under Mourinho it often feels like they are not afforded the opportunity. Fans of the club have revelled in recent seasons at the fact that Spurs have invariably finished above Arsenal in the Premier League table. That could now be under threat with the Gunners sitting just four points behind their North London rivals, with 10 games still to play before the season comes to a close.
While Mourinho was left disappointed with the application of this team throughout the 90 minutes, along with what he felt was an incorrect decision by Michael Oliver to award Arsenal a penalty, much of the blame for Tottenham’s meek performance must rest at the feet of the man in charge. Mourinho is quickly discovering that the tactics that brought him so much success at Chelsea and Inter Milan are fading into insignificance, and yet he is clinging to them like a child to their old favourite blanket.
In flashes, Mourinho still produces masterclasses of pragmatic football, one example being Spurs’ 2-0 win over Manchester City earlier in the season. But the reality is that Mourinho’s strike rate in big games is getting lower and lower, and Tottenham are suffering as a result, playing with the kind of conservatism that flies in the face of the quality players like Kane, Son and Gareth Bale possess.
The latest failure of Mourinho’s tactics has resulted in the most painful of defeats. It is Tottenham’s first loss to Arsenal in over two years, and perhaps a sign that Mourinho’s tenure at Spurs is slowly creeping on a downward slide. If Tottenham are to get anything out of this season, Mourinho will need to produce some fresh ideas or the team risks drifting into mid-table obscurity.