Kane can breathe easily. He’s still leading the strike force for a manager who has drawn scorn for shackling players in “parking the bus” ultra-defensive systems. But after five years of intense pressing and high energy football under Mauricio Pochettino, perhaps the Spurs squad should be prepared for a more soporific style at times.
“The fans, they must be happy,” Mourinho says, perched on a sofa at the Tottenham training ground. “The players, they must be happy. And I must be also happy.” One player Mourinho has already targeted with improving is midfielder Dele Alli to “bring the real Dele back.”
“I have already spoken with him and I asked him if he was Dele or Dele’s brother,” Mourinho says. “He told me he was Dele. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘Play like Dele.’ “He is potentially a fantastic player. Now I have to create a tactical situation he is happy with, give him the right dynamics.”
When taking charge of a team enduring an alarming slump to 14th place, something must clearly give, tempering attacking abandon with greater defensive resilience. A clean sheet has been achieved only once in 12 English Premier League games. They have leaked 18 goals after boasting one of the best defenses in the competition during four years of top-four finishes and a run to the Champions League final last season.
“I’m going to try to make some tactical ticks,” Mourinho says. “Not incredible changes. I’m not going now to try to be Einstein, but I’m going to try to make the players player the way I want them to play.
“Offensive football, yes, but winning matches, not offensive football and don’t win a match for 10 or 11 months.” That has been the case in the league for Tottenham, which plays at West Ham on Saturday chasing a first away win since last season in January.
Mourinho has had 11 months of introspection since an abrupt end to his Manchester United career amid spats and sullenness. This is Mourinho’s third shot at an English club, after two title-winning spells with Chelsea, and a platform to reassert his credentials as a manager.
After so many feuds, Mourinho seemed taken aback by the notion rival fans are yearning for him to come unstuck again. “I'm a good guy. Come on,” Mourinho says. “People cannot wish that I fail. If you are a fan of another club, I understand that but general people? I'm a good guy. Come on! Give me a break.”
Success at Tottenham could be defined by the partnership between Mourinho and chairman Daniel Levy — a bond that fractured with Pochettino as spending was restricted to challenge for trophies. Now a manager renowned for even more forceful demands for investment has been paired with the executive who notoriously drives a hard deal.
“I used to be in clubs that fear him,” Mourinho says of Levy. “He’s powerful. He’s a businessman but he’s a football man ... and it’s great to have him on my side.” There are fewer than six weeks until the January transfer window opens.
“I don't need to spend a huge amount of money,” Mourinho says. “I don’t need transfers.” This does not sound like the Mourinho in his final offseason as United manager who grew irritated with the dearth of expenditure on the defense — an area now in need of reinforcements at Tottenham.
Is Mourinho really no longer dependent on spending sprees? “Maybe it's my fault,” he says. “Maybe it's also the profile of club that I normally get. It’s like you people say, I always need money to spend with players. It’s not me it’s my clubs.
“It’s the profile of the club. It’s the profile of the owner, the profile of, let's say, Real Madrid. Certain profile of players.” Retaining players is important for Mourinho, particularly Kane. Now, of course, England’s World Cup Golden Boot winner knows he won’t be shunted back into defense at Mourinho’s Tottenham.
“It was part of (Levy’s) explanation about his vision for the club, without being specific about the players,” Mourinho says. “He told me he does not sell players when the manager doesn’t want to sell.”
Spurs can fend off clubs chasing their talent, which was elevated during Pochettino’s five-year reign. A club without a league championship since 1961 is now among the top 10 biggest moneymakers in world football.
“We can have the same ambitions as they have at clubs that are bigger than us,” Mourinho says. “I don’t want my players to fear anything. We go for everything against everybody and we can win.”
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