Spurs have a problem - Mourinho can't find the right balance between defence and attack
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur at Molineux on December 27, 2020 in Wolverhampton, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby - Pool/Getty Images)


After the catastrophic collapse against West Ham United, Jose Mourinho made clear attempts to fix up the defensive issues. 

And it worked, to great effect. Tottenham Hotspur set up in a very pragmatic defensive system, and suddenly had the best defence – statistically – in the league. 

But now, all of a sudden, they are facing a big problem after dropping a calamitous ten points from four games.

They have swung too much the other way. 

Against Wolverhampton Wanderers, they got ahead through Tanguy Ndombele’s first-minute goal and Spurs only had intentions to protect their lead. 

As they conceded more and more possession and chances, the equaliser felt inevitable – and it came in the 86th minute through Roman Saiss’ clever guided header.  

It was an identical pattern to the Crystal Palace game earlier this month and also followed leads being thrown away against Newcastle United and West Ham in the early weeks of the campaign.

Things have to change; it doesn’t appear to be a coincidence.

If you sit on narrow leads where the margins between winning and drawing are very fine, this situation will happen.

It will also happen if – as was the case for Spurs at the Molineux – you don’t produce a shot on target after the 21st minute and come up with a total of one effort on goal after that, which was an uninspiring Eric Dier free-kick.

A defensive approach makes sense, on occasion, but recently it has been too negative – change is needed. 

•    The Problem

As mentioned before, the whole 89 minutes after Ndombele’s opener was unnecessarily uninspiring.

They had no intention to hurt Wolves in the slightest, to kill off the game and make sure they achieved the must needed three points. 

Was the safety-first approach really necessary against a Wolves team without Raul Jimenez

Playing reactive, largely unexciting football is generally fine with fans if it brings results. But when it doesn't, it stings even worse.

Another problem is that the defensive approach hasn’t even been executed that well.

Against Wolves, they conceded too many chances and allowed their opponent in dangerous areas far too many times. 

On another day, Fabio Silva grabbed a brace and Spurs came out of the Molineux with no points. 

Something has to give.

At the moment they seem either unwilling or unable to push on and kill games. And, simply, they have picked up two points from their last four league games.

But the nature of the season so far means they are only one point off the top four, and six off first-placed Liverpool.

Home wins against Fulham and Leeds United this week will likely lift them from fifth into the Champions League place. 

There is time to change. 

•    The Solution 

Like after West Ham, there’s no shame in accepting a bit of a reboot is needed and altering the team’s approach.

Mourinho, as he so often has in his career, has another riddle to solve – this time to do with how his side approach games.

He has got to find the right balance. 

With attacking outlets like Harry Kane, Son-Heung Min, Ndombele, Gareth Bale, Lucas Moura, Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli, and Steven Bergwijn, they have the potential to play very slick, relentless, and attacking football. 

Kane and Son flourished, yes, but it’s starting to soften.

Teams no longer fear Tottenham’s attacking threat, especially when, like on Sunday – they can nullify one of them and leave Spurs toothless. It’s too predictable. 

Manchester United and Southampton, two games earlier in the season, were proof that Spurs have the capabilities to kill games off in emphatic style. 

So, is that the style they should revert back to? But maybe they will expose themselves and the West Ham collapse, for example, could occur again?

You see the problem, right? 

Mourinho has to be clever, find the right balance between going into kill mode, and then playing cautiously when required. 

If they find themselves 2-0 up, after a spell of dominance, maybe then they can switch and protect their lead.

But it’s clearly not sustainable when holding onto a thin advantage.

Mourinho has to find the solution, and quick. Otherwise, this will go down an ugly route. 

Tweaks are needed, and fast, for Tottenham to propel themselves back into a title chase, and if not that – a secure Champions League place. 
 

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