What are Tottenham? Kane exit hints leave Spurs & Mourinho fighting for relevance

The striker has suggested he could leave if the north London outfit's recent malaise continues, with their manager struggling to inspire much hope

Posted Saturday, April 18, 2020 by Goal.com

What are Tottenham? Kane exit hints leave Spurs & Mourinho fighting for relevance

When was the last time you read a positive headline about Tottenham Hotspur?

Since reaching the Champions League final last June, Spurs have lurched from one crisis to another at a disturbing pace, with the club now almost unrecognisable from the one which gave off nothing but positive vibes over the past half-decade.

They sacked their best manager since Bill Nicholson and replaced him with a high-profile coach in Jose Mourinho who has been on a downward trajectory for some time.

They sold their primary playmaker for a cut-price fee because they could not convince him that Tottenham were moving in the right direction fast enough for a player in the prime of their career.

They failed to replace said playmaker in a January transfer window that saw them sign players with potential but that did not fit the wider needs of the squad.

Their two best attacking players picked up injuries which, in any normal season that did not get forced into an indefinite lockdown, would have all-but ended their campaigns.

The jewel of their academy was handed a first-team debut, only for the new coach to, on an almost-weekly basis, criticise him in the media for both his ability on the field and his personality off it.

One of their numerous England internationals climbed into the crowd following an FA Cup defeat to confront a supporter who was arguing with a family member.

The captain of England admitted that he may look to leave if the club do not take steps towards winning trophies after it was revealed that he would prefer to move to Manchester United instead of sticking around for another extensive rebuild.

After a video of their manager helping deliver food parcels to the elderly went viral (one of the few times there has been a positive news story around Spurs), he and a number of players were spotted undergoing a training session in a public park when the whole nation was supposed to be on lockdown with no social contact between individuals who do not live together permitted.

The club decided to force non-playing staff into taking a pay cut, with their wages paid entirely by the government, following the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK despite being the eighth-richest football club in the world and making almost £70 million ($87.5m) in profit last season. They have, at least, reversed this decision, albeit weeks later after intense fan and media pressure.

All in all it has been a season to forget for Tottenham and their supporters, though attempting to allow it to slip from their mind will likely prove difficult what with Amazon producing a behind-the-scenes documentary on the story of the campaign. Whenever it airs it promises to be must-watch television.

For now, Spurs find themselves at a crossroads. Presuming the season does resume, it will do so with Tottenham looking to arrest a run of six games without a win that has seen them crash out of both the Champions League and the FA Cup while slipping seven points off the pace in the battle for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Since the turn of the century the elite group at the top of the English game has been ever-growing. It went from the ‘Big Two’ in the shape of Manchester United and Arsenal to the ‘Top Four’ as Liverpool and Chelsea joined them as regulars in the Champions League.

Manchester City’s new-found wealth and Tottenham’s consistency under Mauricio Pochettino saw them join the party to form the ‘Big Six’, but Spurs’ current malaise could see the group decrease in numbers for the first time this millennium if things are not turned around quickly in north London.

While there were justifiable reasons to relieve Pochettino of his duties in November, the decision to hand the reins to Mourinho was beginning to look more and more puzzling as the weeks went on pre-shutdown.

While injuries to key players such as Harry Kane and Son Heung-min would hurt any club, Mourinho’s apparent inability to answer the questions that were being posed of him tactically only fuelled the belief that the Portuguese is a coach whose time at the top has been and gone.

Mourinho can boast two Champions Leagues and eight league titles on his CV, but it is now over three years since he last lifted any silverware. Heavy pressing and quick transitions have been the trademark of successful teams over the past five years, and there is a growing consensus that Mourinho’s largely passive style of play is more out of place at the top of the game than ever before.

“What I don’t like about Jose at the minute is the negativity,” ex-Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas told MOTDx recently. “I think he’s been far too negative in terms of the message he’s been sending out with the players.

“I know we’ve got injuries to Kane, I know Son’s injured and now [Steven] Bergwijn. But I think there needs to be a more positive structure going out to the players. And overall I still can’t see what the team are and how they’re trying to play.”

That was no more evident than during Spurs’ final league match before lockdown as Mourinho lined up with a back five away at Burnley consisting entirely of centre-backs, who in turn then spent the opening 45 minutes firing long balls in Dele Alli’s direction while bypassing the midfield.

Two half-time changes at least inspired the visitors to claim a draw at Turf Moor, only for Mourinho to use his post-match interviews to single out club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele for his underwhelming start to life in north London.

If Mourinho is struggling to remain relevant, then Tottenham are too. To reach the Champions League final as the sixth-biggest club in their own league – and the third-biggest in their own city – is an achievement, but it cannot be allowed to mark the end of Spurs’ foray into the upper echelons of the European game.

What are Tottenham? Kane exit hints leave Spurs & Mourinho fighting for relevance

With the impressive Tottenham Hotspur Stadium regarded by many as the best sports arena in the country and one of the best on the continent, Daniel Levy faces the challenge of ensuring he has a team on the pitch to match.

The signs are that the side that Pochettino built needs a major rebuild, and thus it will have been disheartening to hear the player around whom that rebuild would presumably take place, Kane, suggest he could look to move on in the not too distant future.

“If I don’t feel we’re progressing as a team or going in the right direction, then I’m not someone to stay there for the sake of it,” Kane told Sky Sports in a recent interview. “I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, get better. I want to become one of the top, top players, so it all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. It’s not definite that I’m going to stay here forever.”

The challenge has been laid down to Levy and Mourinho – make this club better or Kane, and potentially other big names, will want out. It is claimed Spurs would demand £200m ($250m) to sell the England captain, but players who want to leave clubs generally find a way eventually.

Without Kane, Pochettino or Champions League football, Spurs would likely find themselves in freefall back to the mediocrity that plagued them throughout the past half-century quicker than anyone would have expected ahead of June’s defeat to Liverpool in Madrid. But as Mourinho is beginning to learn, a career at the very top does not always last forever.

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