Time for a Jose Mourinho rethink with Tottenham not playing to their strengths and easy to blunt

Dan Kilpatrick
·5-min read
<p>In charge: Jose Mourinho</p> (Getty Images)

In charge: Jose Mourinho

(Getty Images)

Tottenham extended their winless run to four Premier League matches with a dispiriting 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Sunday.

What might have been a blip is now a worrying downturn for Jose Mourinho's side, particularly given the familiar pattern of their evening.

Spurs took the lead inside a minute, the excellent Tanguy Ndombele flashing a low drive past Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio after the hosts failed to clear a corner.

The visitors had opportunities to extend their lead on the break in the first half, with Ndombele twice setting up Sergio Reguilon, but the game soon developed into a contest between attack and defence, as Spurs sat back, attempted to protect their lead and looked for opportunities to counter-attack.

With Heung-min Son nullified on the right wing and Harry Kane short of support, Wolves steadily grew in confidence and Fabio Silva flashed a shot into the side netting in one of several openings. By the start of the second half, Wolves were completely in control of possession, forcing Spurs to retreat deeper and deeper into their shell.

Without a real outlet, Mourinho's side kept returning the ball to their opponents and their last shot on target came in the 21st minute, with the second period little more than an exercise in clinging on.

It felt inevitable that the pressure would tell, just as it did in the recent matches against Crystal Palace and Liverpool, and, sure enough, Roman Saiss headed home from a corner in the 86th minute to earn Wolves a deserved point.

Mourinho's contain-and-counter approach worked perfectly in the wins over Manchester City and Arsenal this winter and earned a valuable point at Chelsea, but it is no longer yielding results and the question is whether the manager has the inclination – or the tactical acumen – to make a change.

This Spurs side simply do not look capable of withstanding long spells of pressure like Mourinho's legendary Chelsea or Inter Milan teams, and they have dropped points to set-piece goals against Everton, Newcastle, West Ham, Palace, Liverpool and now Wolves this season.

Mourinho's favoured approach is particularly frustrating because his squad is so top heavy, with world-class weapons up front in Kane, Son and Ndombele, but an ordinary group of a defenders, with little to differentiate them.

With these tactics, Spurs are simply not playing to their strengths and their opponents have quickly worked out that by stopping Kane and Son, they can stop Spurs.

Tottenham played on the front foot with spectacular results in the demolitions of Southampton and Manchester United earlier this season, suggesting they can play a different way, but Mourinho was scarred by the late collapse in the 3-3 draw with West Ham and has since shut up shop.

After one point from a possible 12, he should consider another rethink to get Spurs playing more progressive football again.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Ndombele shines

The one positive for Spurs was Ndombele's performance – arguably his best for the club.

The 23-year-old got the visitors off to the perfect start with a goal after just 57 seconds, firing home a low drive from 20 yards, and everything good about them went through him.

He should have been rewarded with at least one assist, twice setting up Reguilon in the first half and slipping in Kane. His second ball for Reguilon came after a magnificent 30-yard run which left Spurs three-on-two – although arguably Kane to his right was a more sensible option than the Spaniard to his left.

Playing in a free role next to the England captain, Ndombele was the biggest beneficiary of Mourinho's switch to a 3-5-2 system, enjoying the security provided by the three centre-backs, Harry Winks and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to express himself on the ball. He often popped up in little pockets of space and quickly recycle the ball to keep Spurs moving.

After the interval, as Spurs regressed, Ndombele continued to lead their press but his performance was a reminder of what he can do when he gets on the ball.

There is arguably no-one more unpredictable and exciting in the Premier League.

Ndombele's showing was timely, with Spurs missing the injured Giovani Lo Celso, who has alternated with him this season.

But he is still not fit enough in Mourinho's view to play a full match, with Moussa Sissoko replacing him with 20 minutes remaining, another reason for Spurs' late collapse.

Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Son quietly in poor spell

If Mourinho's change in formation brought the best from Ndombele, it came at a cost, with Son marginalised on the right of midfield.

Son actually got in behind Wolves immediately, forcing the corner for the goal with a shot saved by Patricio, but after that he was anonymous.

The South Korean is quietly going through a poor spell and now has just one goal in six matches.

Admittedly, Spurs are not playing to Son's strengths and the match might have played out differently had the forward, rather than Reguilon, twice found himself in good positions in the first half.

But Son also looks subdued and in need of a rest. He has stopped attacking his full-back and making the kind of runs in behind which terrified opponents in October and November.

Mourinho has been reluctant to use summer signing Carlos Vinicius in the Premier League but Son needs a rest, and the Brazilian may offer something different against the Cottagers.

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