Jose Mourinho May Have Just Found the Team He Needs to Win at Spurs

The only thing more painful than admitting you're wrong? Admitting that you're wrong to the cult following that surrounds José Mourinho.

Talk of a 'winning mentality' and a mystical 'Special One' who would promise, nay, guarantee trophies for Spurs almost resembled blind faith at this point after the Portuguese manager's underwhelming stint at Manchester United - more like the pitch for a pyramid scheme than for a new head coach.

And yet, at the end of a 21-day period in which Spurs had eight (nine, if you count the cancelled Leyton Orient game in the EFL Cup) games on three different fronts, a period which could well have concluded with Mourinho receiving his P45, the old maestro has conjured up six wins, one (VAR-assisted) draw, and a single opening-day loss to Everton.

Spurs have navigated the myriad perils of Europa League qualifying to reach the competition's group stage, are a healthy six in the league, and find themselves in the League Cup quarter-finals with a favourable draw against Stoke.

In a week which started with a gritty EFL Cup victory over bitter rivals Chelsea, saw Spurs defeat Maccabi Haifa 7-2 (a year to the day after Spurs lost 7-2 to Bayern Munich), and concluded with an utterly dominant 6-1 dispatching of Manchester United, Mourinho went through those who had wronged him last season - Frank Lampard, the ghost of Mauricio Pochettino, Ole Gunnar Solskjær - and ruthlessly dispatched them, Kill Bill style.

With the squad now competing, and competing strongly on several fronts, the spiritual aura which surrounds Mourinho in the eyes of his acolytes is now becoming slowly visible to the rest of us. But how did he, and Tottenham, rediscover the magic touch?

Well, Mourinho undoubtedly deserves a lot of credit for making a believer out of Daniel Levy, and for convincing him that he, even after a middling first season, is the man to be trusted with wholesale changes to the Tottenham squad in the post-Pochettino transition period.

Seven players have come into the Spurs squad in the two windows since Mourinho arrived, and while not all of them have broken into the first team, all of them have looked like they are contributing towards a squad which is flexible, energetic, and competitive.

Some of them are, of course, rotation players at the moment - Mourinho seems happy to play the talented Steven Bergwijn largely within Europa League matches at the moment, while Spurs fans will have been intrigued to see the mysterious Gedson Fernandes put in a useful shift in against Chelsea in the cup.

But these signings have also had the benefit of allowing Spurs much positional flexibility in games where Mourinho is looking to try a variety of tactical approaches. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has excelled as Spurs' deepest midfielder in a three-man midfield but has also been tried within a midfield two, while Sergio Reguilón's swashbuckling approach as a left-wing back gives Spurs something entirely different in that position.

Away from that flexibility, the quality that Mourinho has demanded from Levy has ensured genuinely competitive performances from players vying for a first-team spot - Serge Aurier has been channelling Dani Alves ever since Matt Doherty strolled into town, while Ben Davies (!!!), his place under threat from the excellent Reguilón, managed to send none other than Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a hot dog before winning a penalty at Old Trafford .

With every transfer, to Mourinho's credit, you can see him fundamentally trying to maximising the potential of his fearsome attacking players - Højbjerg gives Tanguy Ndombele protection when the dazzling French midfielder attempts an audacious pass between the lines, Reguilón will stretch the game for Spurs' forwards by providing some legitimate threat from the left-back position for the first time since the days of peak Danny Rose, and the incoming Carlos Vinícius will ensure that Kane can actually have a much-needed sit down this season.

Oh how we scoffed when the José followers repeated their mantra that Mourinho was not given enough support in the transfer market by Ed Woodward - but now that Mourinho has shown what he is capable of with a bit of cash (a stipulation that he will likely always have as a manager), we can begin to entertain this explanation of his failure up north.

With this in mind, the importance of Levy in restoring Mourinho's mojo cannot be understated. For a man who seemed to treat his employee with reverential awe in the All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur documentary, Levy had a more realistic understanding of life with Mourinho than many of his detractors initially gave him credit for.

Much of this involved forcing Mourinho to accept that some compromise would be necessary to succeed at a club of Spurs' dimensions.

Behind perhaps Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, the most important player in Spurs' run has been Ndombele. The extent to which Tottenham simply couldn't grasp the fundamentals of progressing a football forward last season was staggering, so it seemed pretty obvious to reintegrate one of the best players in the world, but not so to Mourinho, who was happy to part ways with the Frenchman on account of his fitness and perceived attitude problems.

Levy wasn't willing to countenance Spurs' most-expensive ever investment (and a damn good player) being sold, and that was that. But this isn't to say that the chairman has been a prohibitive figure during Mourinho's reign - instead he has been a rather proactive one.

Spurs' excellent transfer window has all come thanks to Levy's guess that there will be rewards for opportunism within a strange transfer window. Bale was retrieved with Madrid desperately needing to trim their squad, and the decision to overlook Reguilón's buyback clause with Los Blancos now looks a masterstroke.

The painful rebuild has been painlessly achieved, and the only complaint is that Pochettino was never the beneficiary.

Other question marks, do, in fairness, remain before Mourinho can be restored to his celestial place in the footballing pantheon. Can this period of rich goalscoring form sustain itself, or will it fail when Son starts missing chances again? How desperately to Spurs need a centre-back? Might Joe Hart's form hamper them in cup competitions?

Perhaps the biggest of these questions relates to the wellspring of bright young prospects at Spurs. Juan Foyth has been sold to Villarreal, Ryan Sessegnon has struggled under Mourinho and has been loaned to Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, while this year is a crucial one for prodigy Troy Parrott, on loan at Millwall. Will young players have to make way to finance Mourinho's revolution? And while he's no longer so much a youngster, will Dele's potential be traded in for a shot at a trophy?

And yet Mourinho is perpetually a manager of the here and now, and in the here and now, Spurs look capable of winning again. This short-term sprinkling of stardust is what you hire him for, and why, to his rejuvenated followers, he will always be Special.

Source : 90min