When Jose Mourinho was unveiled as Tottenham Hotspur head coach in front of a packed audience in November 2019, he immediately spoke of learning from mistakes in the 11 months since a familiarly acrimonious departure from Manchester United. “I am humble enough to try to analyse my career,” he said. “The problems and the solutions, I was humble enough for that.”
Tomorrow night’s game against Chelsea has appeared like a fork in the road, the biggest examination yet of whether Mourinho has indeed found new ways to operate, ten days after the club where he ascended to greatness took a typically severe change of direction.
The table may show Spurs ahead on goal difference but in little over a week the narrative around this derby has flipped and it is suddenly those in the home dugout with more reason to sit uncomfortably.
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Are we, to borrow Antonio Conte’s famous phrase, about to see a “Mourinho season”?
That all depends on whether he has really changed, whether that promise to Spurs fans has been backed up.
There have been signs of him mellowing, the response to Sunday night’s appalling loss away to Brighton & Hove Albion notably meek compared to past reactions in similar situations. A man who has had a habit of hammering individuals following poor performances instead spoke of “human feelings” and players low on self-esteem.
Provided with an open goal to criticise Gareth Bale following a rare start in which he looked disinterested, Mourinho again zoomed out when in the past he might have focused in. “When we lose a match, we lose a match,” he said. “We lose all together. We don’t lose because of one player, or one bad performance. We lose together.”
But there seems little change in the on-field approach. That is why so many Spurs fans are already calling for time on his tenure – that feeling, it should be…