Welcome back to “Well in, Lad.” Today, in this semester’s final edition of the column, to quote the passive-aggressive manager of The Orient’s Twitter account, “[I am talking] about the Premier League … again.” More specifically, I’m revisiting the following question: Is José Mourinho the manager who will lead my favorite club, the Tottenham Hotspurs, to prosperity? While I initially answered this with a firm no in my first article, Mourinho has since brought some absolute ballers into the team and has only lost one game since the horrendous showing against Everton. People often say it takes a big person to admit they were wrong. If that’s true, I guess I should declare for the NBA draft, because I couldn’t have been more wrong about ‘The Special One.” Tottenham is currently playing the best soccer I have ever seen it play during my eight-year tenure as a superfan, and it’s all thanks to Mourinho.
Mourinho primarily deserves praise for plugging personnel holes, albeit obvious ones, in the first team. Sure, early-window arrivals Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg—the best Pierre in North London—aren’t sexy signings, but they are exactly what Tottenham needed. When Kyle Walker departed for Manchester City in 2017, he left some big shoes to fill and, although Mauricio Pochettino put in a superb shift as Spurs manager, he never adequately replaced the English right back. Even though Serge Aurier has been extremely inconsistent since joining the squad from Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, Mourinho had to start him prior to Doherty’s arrival, as there really wasn’t another viable option—no, Kyle Walker-Peters doesn’t count. Doherty is nowhere near Walker’s level, but the former Wolverhampton Wolves captain is a solid player who does the job—and doesn’t foul every other play like Aurier. Additionally, Højbjerg, having joined Tottenham from Southampton for $18.26 million this past summer, looks to be a fantastic bit of business. Coming off a season where Giovanni Lo Celso was the lone difference-maker in the center of the park, the Spurs needed to acquire a holding midfielder who is disciplined—I’m looking at you Moussa Sissoko—and can make meaningful passes and not just switch the field to the right back, Harry Winks. Højbjerg, the Premier League passes leader, has checked both boxes for Tottenham. By sitting in front of the center backs, breaking up opposing teams’ offensive efforts, and playing counter-attack-starting passes, the Dane has been crucial to Tottenham’s early-season title push.
After I wrote my first article, Mourinho also brought in Gareth Bale, Sergio Reguilón, Carlos Vinícius and Joe Rodon—all fantastic signings for different reasons. Let’s start with the Welsh Wizard. Before I was a Tottenham fan, I just was a Bale fan. When I was younger, I would celebrate goals by making a heart shape with my hands like Bale did—he was my first sports idol. So, as you might imagine, when I found out he was returning to the Spurs, I was ecstatic. Bale has looked lively in his six appearances this season, contributing one goal and one assist. Bale’s arrival allows Lucas Moura to come off the bench—any Tottenham fan will tell you this is how he should be utilized—and Mourinho to deploy a potentially potent Kane-Son-Bale forward line. In addition to Bale, Reguilón arrived from Real Madrid. Touted as one of the best young left backs in the world, he replaced the extremely average Ben Davies in the starting line-up. Reguilón has been stellar thus far, producing three assists in eight matches, and, if Real Madrid doesn’t activate his buy-back clause, he looks to be the long-term solution to Tottenham’s left back problem. While, unlike Bale and Reguilón, Vinícius and Rodon are not going to break into the starting eleven anytime soon, their signings represent the fulfillment of two long-standing needs for the Spurs: getting a good back-up striker and center back for the future. During the past few seasons, whenever star striker Harry Kane has been injured, the team hasn’t performed well. This can be attributed to the fact that his best back-up in recent years was an aging Fernando Llorente. Last season, the top scorer of the Portuguese Primeira Liga top was Vinícius who is only 25 and has two assists in 175 minutes of Europa League play. By giving Kane some much-needed rest and making goal contributions off the bench, the former S.L. Benfica ace will make Tottenham’s offense even better than it has been. Lastly, with Tobi Alderweireld aging, Davinson Sánchez still making dumb mistakes, and Eric Dier just being bad—hopefully Mourinho stops playing him soon—former Swansea City standout Rodon could eventually secure a starting spot at center back.
Let me leave you with some numbers from this season. 14 games. 10 wins, two ties and two losses. 34 goals scored. 15 goals conceded. Second in the Prem. #ComeOnYouSpurs. #MourinhoIn.