Jose Mourinho suggested the Tottenham dressing room is divided by “selfish” players and agents who have a relationship with the press.
Spurs responded to an embarrassing Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb, where they threw away a 2-0 first-leg lead, to reignite their top-four Premier League hopes thanks to a 2-0 win at Aston Villa, where goals from Carlos Vinicius and Harry Kane earned the points.
In the wake of Thursday’s loss and the north London derby defeat to Arsenal, skipper Hugo Lloris came out and said there were problems being caused by players not in the team and the result was a consequence of deep-rooted problems at the club.
Mourinho appeared to agree with that assessment, saying it was difficult to keep a harmonious dressing room.
“Football nowadays is not easy in relation to that,” he told Sky Sports. “The selfishness is around, the individual interests are around, the agents are around, the connections between agents and press are around.
“And instead of developing a feeling of a team, empathy, ‘I do for you, you do for me’, ‘I win if I play 90 minutes, I win if I am in the stands’.
“This is something that you need time to develop this in a group. Nowadays you need time because society and the psychological profile of younger people is not an easy one.
“I want to be proud of my players, it does not matter the result. And during my career I was proud of my players many times after defeats.
“I was not proud last Thursday or at the Emirates. For me, more than thinking about what position we are going to finish, whether we are going to win the (Carabao Cup) final, is to try to develop this spirit that we need.
“But I cannot do it alone. I have to do it with my club. I have to do it with my players in the dressing room. But tonight I am really happy with what they did.”
Mourinho accused his players of losing to attitude and lacking professionalism in Croatia but, after making some changes, was happy with the response of his side.
“I’m very happy with the result, I’m very happy with the performance, I’m very happy with the attitude,” he said. “I’m not happy with the feeling that if you did it tonight, why you didn’t do it 48 hours ago? That match on Thursday will be a scar for a long time.
“It’s not going to heal just because we won, but total credit to the players. They were a team. They fought together. They put in the game that honest, that dignity that football players should, should put in every match.
“I think the next challenge for this team is to have a performance like this one, not as a reaction to a bad or a couple of bad results, but to have this reaction, this attitude, this collective state of soul to have these every game.
“We are going to lose matches, we are going to play bad, but to have these human qualities in every match is the next challenge for the team.
“For me this is the victory of the dressing room, the victory of their spirit, the victory of the group that felt ashamed of what happened in the last week.
“To be ashamed I always think is a man’s reaction. Don’t care, don’t give a s**t is not for men. To be ashamed is a man’s reaction which they had and I’m very happy for them.”
Vinicius’ first Premier League goal, against the run of play, put Spurs into a half-time lead and then Kane scored his 17th league goal of the season from the spot after the break.
Villa’s season is dwindling to a limp end as a run of no wins in four games looks like restricting them to a mid-table finish after they had threatened an assault on the top six earlier in the campaign.
But boss Dean Smith said his side have never recovered from their campaign being halted by a coronavirus outbreak in January.
“After the Covid, form has been up and down since then, we have lost the momentum,” Smith said. “Since then our form has been up and down ad we have lost our consistency.
“But I see that in the whole league. We have been up and down, we have played well in some games and not so well in others.
“The amount of games we have played, Covid broke up that momentum, we came back to a really tough game in Man City.
“In the last seven or eight games we have not shown that rhythm and momentum we have had. Players have got to play themselves back into form. Their form isn’t there at the moment.”