Four days ago, Mauricio Pochettino was Tottenham’s highly regarded manager. Today, Jose Mourinho coached his first game as the new manager of Spurs.
And he ends up winning his debut over West Ham United. Spurs bossed the first hour, scoring three goals before the hour-mark and barely seeing off a late surge from the hosts to win 3-2. Son Heung Min and Lucas Moura scored the first two in the first half, before Harry Kane’s 49th-minute strike sealed the deal despite Michael Antonio & Angelo Ogbonna netting late goals for West Ham.
Spurs were pretty lively going forward, attempting 12 shots and having 6 on target! Their front-four worked magic, providing enough goals to glide past West Ham’s late mini-comeback and winning them their first away game of the Premier League campaign.
Mourinho’s first starting XI as Tottenham Manager
Here’s Mourinho’s first team sheet as Spurs manager:
So from the last Pochettino side which drew to Sheffield United, three changes were made. Toby Alderweireld was drafted right back into the lineup, being the kind of composed defensive figure the Portuguese usually prefers. Lucas Moura was also slotted into the attacking third, while youngster Harry Winks got the nod ahead of the hard-working Moussa Sissoko.
Eric Dier, a known favourite of Mourinho from his Manchester United days, started in the defensive midfield role trying to help his defence. On the other hand, Jose already started showing his ruthless side in keeping the ineffective Christian Eriksen on the bench.
Giovanni Lo Celso, who was perhaps among Spurs best attackers before the International break and even scored in their Champions League win over Red Star Belgrade, was benched. A typical Jose move to immediately demotivate an in-form player, but perhaps the Argentine isn’t needed for him to succeed.
Mourinho as manager
In terms of the formation, it was similar to the 4-2-3-1 formation which kept changing according to the scenario. But there was a circle of caution around Spurs, with Harry Winks and Eric Dier both sitting relatively deeper to stop counter-attacks as well as give their defenders more protection.
The attacking responsibilities were pit on the front four of Kane-Alli-Son-Moura, with all four being instrumental in linking up some tremendous attacking moves. Mourinho seems to have found the recipe to make his exciting attackers thrive together, as his front-four were slick in carving open West Ham’s defence and moving forward confidently.
They worked the ball into the box superbly with a flurry of quick passes to catch the Hammers’ defence in sixes and sevens. The predominant moves happened with the Alli-Son-Kane combination, creating a few beautiful chances with fancy flicks and tricks to bamboozle the hosts.
Dele Alli, in particular, looks a man reborn under the Portuguese. Nearly all their big chances came through him, he thrived in the attacking hole just behind Kane. He found space to penetrate through the middle, but his incisive passes were enough to break apart West Ham’s defence.
Alli assisted Son’s goal with a clever past and then played a role in the second with a surprising flick despite nearly falling over to show new-form determination. Having not contributed a single assist under Poch this season, Mourinho’s clearly helped him regain the confidence to work harder and try being more influential in creating chances.
Son looked better than ever despite being restricted to the left. He showcased limitless energy in sprinting past bodies trying to make things happen. Mourinho allowed him to express himself and he did so with a stunning left-drive for the goal and later assisting Moura’s strike with another diligent run.
Moura was placed more like a right-sided attacking midfielder than winger, staying central looking to make those penetrative runs which eventually granted him a tap-in finish. Mourinho gave Kane more incentive to try scoring than creating, as the Spurs captain was persistent in trying to break past West Ham’s defence and ended up getting his goal so with a powerful header.
While Mourinho allowed Serge Aurier to march forward(that proved fruitful in the excellent assist for Kane’s goal), left-back Ben Davies played very deep. Both Dier & Winks just moved the ball forward from the back, but stayed close to their defenders to make sure the Hammers couldn’t catch them off-guard.
But of course, with Mourinho comes the shithousery you’d expect from his side. Spurs showed a dirty side with some badly-timed fouls. Dier & Aurier clattered bodies with a few stringent challenges, but Kane of all people rattled West Ham with some clamping fouls. Defensively it was still very topsy-turvy. Despite the added protection, Spurs looked weary defending through the wings or against pace whenever the dejected Hammers flurried forward.
They struggled defending against set-pieces, something which needs improvement. The counter-attacking aspect is another exciting one for Spurs fans. Though they couldn’t finish off some electric counter-attacks, the synchronization of their front-four will create some beautiful goals on counters in the next few months.