Tottenham Hotspur lost at West Ham today, their fifth loss in their last six matches. Since the start of the new year they have taken just seven points from 24 available, putting them solidly midtable and virtually assuring that their only path to the Champions League next season is via winning the Europa League.
Afterwards, Spurs manager Jose Mourinho made even more news for all the wrong reasons, casting blame for the poor run of results on his players and standing by his coaching methods even as Spurs slide farther and farther down the table.
Here’s what he said to the BBC just after the match on the sidelines that caused such a kerfluffle.
“I feel that we are not in the position in relation to our potential. Even if I think for a long, long time that we have problems in the team that I cannot resolve by myself as a coach.
“Our potential is higher than where we are so of course there is frustration. We should be in a better position.”
Sounds bad at first blush, right? That sure sounds like he’s not only throwing his team under the bus, but backing over them a few times to make sure.
But hey — if you want to take a generous read on these quotes, and for the sake of argument let’s do so, you can squint and cock your head to say that what Mourinho was trying to get across is that the team wasn’t reaching its potential even with some personnel deficiencies, but also he hasn’t maximized the talent that he does have at his disposal. It’s in-artfully said, but he’s also not a native English speaker. So maybe in a weird way he is taking some responsibility for the results under his leadership
But then, in the press conference in front of the assembled media he said this when asked about his own methods:
What gives you so much belief [in your methods] at the moment, bearing in mind the run of results?
“Because sometimes the results are the consequence of multiple situations in football and mine and my coaching staff’s methods are second to nobody in the world.”
LOL never mind. That circles right back around to him throwing his players under the bus. Why should he take responsibility, when his players just clearly aren’t good enough to do what he’s asking?
Now, if we’re going to continue to be generous to Mourinho and we’ve gone this far so sure why not, he’s not completely wrong. Tottenham have been plagued by individual mistakes in this run of bad form, mistakes that have had some pretty disastrous outcomes. He’s also not entirely wrong in that some of the players he has at his disposal may not be good enough for what he wants to accomplish with this Spurs team. That’s not an entirely crazy thing to think, especially since Spurs seem to be still recovering from the “painful rebuild” that never was during the entire year with no player purchases. Tottenham pretty desperately need help, especially in defense! It’s an area of concern, without question.
But to publicly speak to the media and say so while at the same time defending the same tired tactics and methods that have resulted in Mourinho getting fired from his past three jobs is at this point is just willful ignorance and the height of hubris. Throwing your players under the bus will not do anything to somehow motivate those same players to magically turn things around. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
This does nothing but attempt to serve his own image at the expense of the players. Putting himself before the club.
Have some respect for yourself Spurs fans.
— NathanAClark (@NathanAClark) February 21, 2021
Moreover, it’s curious that some of the same players who are currently having scorn heaped upon them for their performances — Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier chief among them but even Toby Alderweireld hasn’t escaped criticism this season — were mostly considered solid defenders on the rise under Mauricio Pochettino. In fact, you can extrapolate out and note that the entire team has looked less like an organized unit and more like a collection of individual players who are told to “go out and make magic happen.” When that organization breaks down, that puts additional stress and pressure upon the defense, and any mistakes that are made become magnified.
Good players rarely just become bad players all of a sudden. It can happen, but it’s unusual. Weird that it keeps happening to Jose at his last couple of jobs, isn’t it? The changed variable in this case is Mourinho himself.
I’m tired of yelling about Jose Mourinho. I wish I didn’t have to do it so frequently. People are in turn going to yell at me in the comments for this and quite possibly say I’m being unfair and biased against a manager that I admittedly never wanted to begin with. But anyone who thinks situations like this — criticizing players when results don’t go right, abdicating personal responsibility — is unique to this season hasn’t been paying much attention to Jose Mourinho’s career. This same thing has happened again and again and again.
When Mourinho was hired, he explicitly said that he was happy with the squad at his disposal, that it was an excellent group of players that under his guidance had the potential to win the Premier League. He was hired as the master manager who can maximize this talented group and get them to where they can win things, immediately. Fifteen months later, he’s again feuding with players, throwing his team under the bus and saying “hey, my methods are great, it’s these schmucks who are underperforming.” And if that is true, then why did Mourinho take the job to begin with, and why are we paying this master tactician £15m a year when we could’ve hired literally anyone else to start a new five year project and rebuild the squad under vastly different expectations?
By all accounts Mourinho is going to have until the end of the current Premier League campaign to salvage something from what has turned into an absolute train wreck of a season. He has the Europa League and the Carabao Cup final in April as the best opportunities to win silverware. Maybe he can do it. I honestly, legitimately hope he can and I’ll be rooting for him to do so. But he’s sure not making it easy.