Jose Mourinho has been very critical of the compacted football schedule in recent weeks. And not even in an ‘old man yells at cloud’ way, either.
Tottenham will play a total of six games in March, plus many of their internationals could face up to three more games with their countries at the end of the month (remind me why we’re doing that again?).
A normal March for a Europa League side would usually be hectic enough, but Spurs already had 43 games under their belt since September heading into Sunday evening’s 4-1 win at home to Crystal Palace.
Mourinho has had to lean on the fringes of his squad to navigate an even busier period recently. He’s even swallowed his pride and brought Dele Alli and Gareth Bale back in from the cold, and given debuts to five players from the Under-18s since January.
Tottenham have been through various iterations since Mourinho’s appointment. The highs have been super, but the lows have been among the lowest since the days of Juande Ramos.
Despite assertions that Mourinho wasn’t backed (a more cynical man than I would call this gaslighting), Spurs fans came into the season and out of the summer transfer window with cautious optimism. And after a promising start to the season that peaked with a 2-0 win at home to Arsenal to stay top of the Premier League, there was a feeling that the Portuguese was truly back. He had his dogs needed to build a real challenger.
And then, yeah, it fell apart. Tottenham dropped to as low as ninth in the winter and reports of squad unhappiness bubbled to the surface. On the pitch, Spurs looked devoid of ideas other than hoping Son Heung-min or Harry Kane could pluck something out of nothing. It was effective in the short-term, but not sustainable.
Spurs have now won five of their last six games in all competitions and are beginning to build some momentum, though their tactical blueprint remains sketchy. The press is uncoordinated, the patterns of play aren’t consistent, and the identity doesn’t really stretch beyond running around a bit.
And yet maybe this is the best way for them to end the season.
It’s too late for Mourinho to build a winning machine now, and while modernising some ideas would be welcome, it’s not the time to tinker too much (there’s going to be a hell of a lot of squad rotation to deal with anyway).
Bale’s recent resurgence has taken the pressure off of Kane and Son to be the heroes every week, and Dele’s reintegration has given them another spark of ingenuity in the final third.
An army of two wouldn’t have been able to carry Tottenham to Europa League glory or back into the top four, but if everyone steps up (even if not in unison), then that might just be enough to succeed in the weirdest season of all. Do your own job and worry about that – no team is going to be perfect right now.
The supporting cast are beginning to play their part as we enter the business end of the season, and everyone will need to hold their end of the bargain in order to ensure this campaign is a success.
Spurs are now up to sixth and two points off the Champions League places. There are still a few more twists and turns in this season yet.
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