Tottenham: Jose Mourinho has added his secret ingredient to Spurs – Jermaine Jenas

Match of the Day

I spoke to Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho on Zoom last week and it was obvious his spark is back.

You can see it in his media conferences too, and with his posts on Instagram. His team are in a good place now, for all sorts of reasons, and you can tell he knows it.

At 57, Jose’s legacy is already established, of course. Just look at his track record – he will go down as one of the greatest managers ever, because of what he has already achieved.

But he has got an opportunity now to create something different with Spurs – something that, in a weird way, would almost be more than everything he has done elsewhere.

I mean, can you imagine if he won the Premier League with Tottenham?

There are are not many other managers on this planet who would even think it is possible to walk into Spurs and win the title within 18 months, let alone be able to carry it out.

Snapshot of the top of the Premier League table: 1st Tottenham, 2nd Liverpool, 3rd Chelsea, 4th Leicester 5th Southampton & 6th Everton
Tottenham are top of the table for the first time since August 2014 and have not been top this far into a campaign since January 1985 when they led the old Division One after 23 games

Jose won’t admit his side are contenders of course, but it’s clearly something he feels he can get his teeth into.

Off the pitch, you can tell he is more comfortable now he is back in London than he ever was in Manchester, living out of a hotel.

On it, he has got the players that he wants, and he has instilled the spirit he demands from them.

It is just over a year since he replaced Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs boss, and he has already knocked the can down the road.

No wonder he has got a smile back on his face.

Tottenham 2-0 Man City: Jose Mourinho says Spurs not fighting for the title

‘A brilliant blueprint but Jose aims to make it better’

We can’t forget what Poch did for Tottenham because he made them Champions League regulars and took them to a whole new stratosphere in terms of their belief levels.

Mourinho, though, has somehow looked at that blueprint and said ‘it is brilliant but I can make it better because I know the secret ingredient’.

That secret ingredient is a desire to win. These Tottenham players are all very good footballers, but the question was ‘do they want success enough to get it in a horrible way?’

Basically, are they willing to do it Jose’s way?

It looks like they are, and the more big results it gets them, the more they will be in the palm of his hand.

On top of that, Mourinho is willing to make the hard decisions. Taking Dele Alli out of the group was not an easy one, but he felt it was necessary and he has been proved right.

Jose Mourinho (left) and Dele Alli
Dele Alli has made only one Premier League start this season – in the defeat against Everton on the opening weekend. He was taken off at half-time and has played only 21 minutes in the league since, as a substitute in the 6-1 win over Manchester United on 4 October

It was the same with selling Christian Eriksen in January. You could tell on the Amazon documentary Mourinho wasn’t too keen on the idea, but look how that has worked out.

Spurs don’t appear to be missing the Danish midfielder, while Eriksen must be watching from afar thinking ‘what have I done?’ because Mourinho is getting the best out of so many of his old team-mates.

When I asked Jose about that – about how he has so many leaders in his team – he said he doesn’t look at it as if he is the one who creates them or even identifies them.

His philosophy is more that ‘the leaders show me who they are’. It doesn’t necessarily happen straight away, either, and France midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is a great example of that.

‘If players do their own thing, they don’t play for Jose’

Tanguy Ndombele
Tanguy Ndombele was Tottenham’s record signing when he joined from Lyon for £53.8m in July 2019 but he fell out of favour when Mourinho took charge in November of that year and made only five more Premier League starts that season. In 2020-21, he has already started seven out of nine league games

There is a reason Mourinho loves players like Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg because they give him a minimum of 7/10 every week

But a lot of the others are more than just reliable, they are special – like Harry Kane and Son Heung-min of course.

Ndombele is another one in that bracket. I watched him play for Lyon against Manchester City in 2018 and, with his technical ability, intelligent passing and physical power, he always had the potential to be one of the very best, he just took time to adjust to what Mourinho asks for.

Jose Mourinho's Premier League performance at Spurs
Mourinho’s first game in charge of Tottenham was a 3-2 win over West Ham on 23 November 2019. Since then, only Liverpool (85 points from 35 games) and Manchester City (68 points from 34 games) have picked up more points than Spurs

I think when Mourinho comes into a club, he gives the players a framework and says ‘this is what I want. If you do it, you will become better. If you want to do your own thing, you won’t play for me’.

That broke down with Ndombele last season, which is why he was in and out of the team, but he is applying himself now and doing exactly what Mourinho asks.

Now he’s a starter, week-in week-out, and in the first hour against City on on Saturday he was the key component for Tottenham’s gameplan.

Why Daniel Levy deserves credit too

Every area of this Spurs team is working well now, but that was not the case in their first game of the season, a disappointing defeat by Everton.

At that stage, I was not thinking about a Tottenham title bid. In fact I wondered aloud which direction the team was heading in.

But I did not really understand the effects of the unique circumstances around this campaign and the much shorter preparation time that some teams had in pre-season.

Anyone like me looking in from the outside could not really factor that in, which is where the coaches are way ahead with their understanding of where their teams are at.

I am sure Jose knew before that Everton game that his team were nowhere near ready.

Looking at them now, though, you can see what they are capable of now they are up to speed, and it appears they have the squad depth they are going to need too.

This is where Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy deserves some credit, after a spell where he has come under quite a bit of pressure.

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He has managed to build what is possibly the best football stadium in Europe, then acquire one of the best managers in the world in Mourinho.

On top of that, he has assembled a squad that is enviable throughout the Premier League with the balance and back-up he has got in every position. There is a mix of experience, youth, pace and power. Oh, and a world-class forward line too.

What next? Everyone has to be ready for a huge month

Sunday, 29 November Chelsea (a)
Sunday, 6 December Arsenal (h)
Sunday, 13 December Crystal Palace (a)
Wednesday, 16 December Liverpool (a)
Sunday, 20 December Leicester (h)

Spurs have put themselves in a very good position in the Premier League, now they have to maintain it.

One of their problems is that their games come thick and fast, especially because they are in Europe, and each of them presents a challenge.

After playing Chelsea on Sunday, Spurs face Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester in the next few weeks, in games that are very specific in terms of their level of intensity.

This is where Tottenham’s squad depth, and the game-time everyone gets, is going to be very important.

The fans might not like to see it, but I think Mourinho is going to have to rest some players at different times. It may be that Harry has to step aside for a league game – he has started every one so far – and someone else comes in.

I know Mourinho talks up the importance of Tottenham’s Europa League campaign, and they also cannot just assume they will brush aside Crystal Palace in the league a few days before they face Liverpool either.

But I don’t see how he plays his best players in those matches, and still has them at their best for all the big games.

It is not just a physical challenge they face in the next month, it is a mental one too – and this is before we even get to the Christmas period which will be even busier.

They don’t even have to win all the games I have just mentioned because, the way this season is going for everyone, one really big positive would just to be avoid any major injuries.

But clearly they will ideally be looking to maintain their momentum and for that to happen the fringe players have to be ready – not just ready to play, but ready to pull their weight.

Mourinho already sent out a message about that with his comments after he rested players against Royal Antwerp at the end of October and his side played badly and were beaten.

Whenever he does that, he needs the players who come in to have the right mindset, and show him why they should be the ones starting regularly.

However it works, it’s important Spurs get it right. The margin for error is so small, and this period could define the rest of their season – where they finish, whether they end up with a trophy, and which one.

Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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