Two months ago Jose Mourinho was fielding questions over whether Tottenham could end a 60-year wait to be crowned English champions but a disastrous run has put his defensive style back under the microscope.
Since beating Arsenal to go top of the table in early December, Spurs have won just two of their 10 league games to slide down to eighth place – seven points adrift of the top four.
A 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Thursday means for the first time in Mourinho’s 20-year managerial career he has lost back-to-back home league games.
The former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United boss was brought to Tottenham by chairman Daniel Levy to deliver trophies after Mauricio Pochettino’s five years in charge ended without silverware despite huge progress.
Pochettino helped transform Tottenham from serial under-achievers to Champions League regulars despite limited transfer funds and being forced to play nearly two full seasons at their temporary home at Wembley.
Under his watch Spurs moved into their gleaming new £1 billion ($1.3 billion) stadium.
But despite the goodwill the Argentine had generated, he was sacked in November 2019, five months after reaching the club’s first-ever Champions League final.
The axe fell after Pochettino had mustered just 14 points from Tottenham’s first 12 games last season.
Over the past 12 games, Mourinho has managed just 13 and for the first time since 2012, Spurs have lost three consecutive Premier League games.
Cup success is what the Portuguese may now need to save his job and salvage his first full season in charge at Spurs.
Tottenham face Manchester City in the League Cup final in April, aiming to end an agonising 13-year wait to win a trophy.
Mourinho has also been keen to point out he has won the Europa League in his two previous seasons in the competition, with Porto and Manchester United.
“I put pressure on myself every day,” said the 58-year-old. “I don’t need others to put pressure on me. So, since 2012 without three defeats in a row. But since when without a title? Maybe I can give one.”
However, it is not just results but the nature of Tottenham’s decline that has some supporters already calling for his head.
Fans of a club renowned for attacking football and flair players have in recent months been fed a diet of deep defending, with the hope of launching Harry Kane and Son Heung-min on the counter-attack.
“They’ve forgotten what to do when they get the ball,” said Spurs great Glenn Hoddle as Chelsea imposed themselves with ease on Thursday, just over a week after the Blues made a managerial change, with Thomas Tuchel replacing Frank Lampard.
Mourinho’s explanation for that lack of goal threat is the loss of the prolific Kane to injury.
But even without the England captain he has an expensive array of attacking talent to choose from in Son, Steven Bergwijn, Gareth Bale, Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela.
Bale was not even given a minute off the bench on Thursday, with Mourinho making just two changes as he chased an equaliser against Chelsea.
Mourinho’s inability to explain why the Welshman’s second spell at Spurs has been such a disappointment so far is fast becoming another stick with which to beat the manager.
“I’m doing my best, he’s doing his best, everybody is doing their best,” was all Mourinho would say when asked about Bale’s lack of minutes.
As it stands, though, Mourinho’s best is not good enough to satisfy the demands of Tottenham fans.
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