Tottenham really needed the experiment to work.
Just as they were adding new meaning to the phrase one-dimensional, Jose Mourinho finally dared to do. Within 60 seconds at Goodison Park in the FA Cup 5-4 fifth-round defeat he had seen Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura go close. It was no fluke. Rather than sit back for the next 89 minutes, and beyond, they persisted to commit numbers towards the opposition goal. But as the shackles came off the attack, so too did the wheels on the defence.
Is it a case of having one or the other, attack or defence? Or could Spurs have stumbled upon new blueprints to save their season... and Mourinho's job?
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As Bernard lashed home the ninth goal of the night, and Everton's fifth, it was apparent why Mourinho was so reluctant to break from his mould. After all, even with seasoned players like Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg shielding his goal, Spurs were ripped open without their entire ensemble behind the ball.
In truth, it shouldn't have needed to get to the stage of reckless abandon. Tottenham have looked so one-dimensional because their promised second dimension, Gareth Bale, has failed spectacularly. When you sign someone from Real Madrid and hoick half his £600,000-a-week wages, it is not unreasonable to expect more than one Premier League goal.
Now that Bale has been effectively written off by Mourinho, and an FA Cup tie has showcased their other attacking avenues, Spurs have to accept that the Welshman will not save their season after all and build on a rare attacking display.
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Should Mourinho be under pressure?
It might seem ridiculous to say, but Mourinho is under pressure. Sure, he could yet win two trophies this season but if there were Tottenham fans packed into the stadium for many of their recent outings, the outlook would be very different. There is an expectation at Spurs that the team at least pretends to attack consistently. And while a 5-4 defeat is gutting, and Mourinho once called such a result a "hockey score", it will have been a welcome tonic to fans used to the drudgery of throwing away leads by retreating or, worse, simply allowing their door to be bashed in.
Mourinho has persisted long enough with plan a. It's time for plan b. With a defining month coming up, one that will shape their top-four challenge and decide if they go deep in the Europa League, they can't just let teams come at them and expect results.
- - -
|February 13||Manchester City (a)||Premier League|
|February 18||Wolfsberger (a)||Europa League last 32, first leg|
|February 21||West Ham (a)||Premier League|
|February 24||Wolfsberger (h)||Europa League last 32, first leg|
|February 28||Burnley (h)||Premier League|
|March 6||Crystal Palace (h)||Premier League|
|March 11||TBC (if Spurs qualify)||Europa League last 16, first leg|
|March 13||Arsenal (a)||Premier League|
Why build your team's approach around Eric Dier when you can build it around Harry Kane and Son Heung-min? Not the 'pass to Kane, who passes to Son' approach which worked for a bit, but a flowing system that not only harnesses Spurs' two best players but also encourages them to actually want the ball.
Mourinho will know that Spurs fans will be unforgiving if the mediocre performances - and results - continue. Having stumbled upon it against Everton, he now knows that his team can create chances when given permission not to wait for counter-attacks. And even if it goes wrong, it's fun.
The return of fans to football will be relatively soon and their judgement will be swift. The only way Mourinho can survive is to appease them - and that starts by having a healthy dose of attacking intent.
UEFA Europa Conference League
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