Mourinho’s blueprint: Victory over Leicester provides template for success


40 minutes on the clock. 3-0 Tottenham. Three points wrapped up for Jose Mourinho and his Spurs side.

The performance against Leicester City on a sunny afternoon in North London will lay the benchmark for how Mourinho can be successful at Spurs.

Victory over Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes left Spurs sixth and in a fine position to qualify for the Europa League, a competition Mourinho won with Manchester United in 2017.

Europe’s secondary stage would present a realistic chance for a trophy to be brought home to Tottenham, the club’s trophy barren spell stretching back to 2009.

So what made this performance in particular one of promise, and perhaps laid an insight into the way in which Tottenham will now look to be effective.

Be clinical on the counter

All three goals arrived as a result of the direct, fast counter-attacks.

Between Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane, Tottenham possess the pace and power to break away and turn defence into attack quickly.

Evidence of this willingness to win the ball back in effective areas came in the form of shouts from Joao Sacramento on Sunday afternoon, ‘ball, Lucas!’ and ‘ball, Sonny’ the screams from the Portuguese coach.

‘Sonny’ set the tone with the opener on six minutes. Lucas headed to Kane, the English striker struck an outside of the foot pass to Son, who attacked Ryan Bennett.

The South Korean used his quick feet to wrong foot Bennett before striking towards goal, a fortunate deflection off the recovering James Justin resulting in an own goal.

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Lucas claimed two assists against Leicester, only the second time the Brazilian has achieved the feat for Spurs.

Despite their success, the trio weren’t perfect. 20 minutes were on the clock when Lucas was being berated by Mourinho screaming ‘come on, Lucas’ while exchanging disapproving glances with Sacramento.

Lucas livened up to their calls when Son caught young full-back Luke Thomas from a clear Leicester corner to break. Giovani Lo Celso was involved this time, playing Lucas to drive towards goal.

Son’s run drew Harvey Barnes away to allow Kane to be rolled in, the England captain finding the perfect finish low across goal to double the advantage. From back to front in an instant, the goal seemed to typify the clinical nature Jose wants to instil in his players.

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The third was about the quality of ‘one of their own’. Thomas was robbed this time by Lucas, who fed Kane with an overhit pass that the Spurs striker went chasing.

Once collected, the England captain squared up Bennett, made a yard to shoot and curled a ‘Kane-esque’ finish into the far corner. The goal was a superb individual effort and brought a large round of applause from those in attendance at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the only shame being the lack of Spurs crowd here to witness it.

Kane now has 13 goals in 18 appearances under Mourinho and looked back to his very best, his passing range fantastic alongside the Englishman’s typically sharp finishing.

Your captain leads from the front

Before the restart, Tottenham fans may have speculated whether Hugo Lloris would still be at the club next season.

Since its resumption, the Frenchman has been one of Spurs’ best performers.

His performance against Leicester was perhaps his best all season. In a shouting match with Kasper Schmeichel for much of the contest, the Spurs captain wasn’t the loudest man on the field but his instructions to his defensive line could still be heard from the press area in the stadium.

Mourinho described Lloris’ and Son’s altercation at half-time against Everton as ‘beautiful’. Not the words many would have used but the incident displayed the captain’s commitment to his team’s cause.

The save from Ayoze Perez, the Spaniard touching the ball down before firing a volley towards the bottom corner, was a superb stretching effort. His claiming of crosses, even his kicking, which is sketchy at the best of times, was good if unspectacular.

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Leicester created further chances as Tottenham sat back on their lead in the second half, Mourinho’s team only recording 29 percent possession in the contest.

Lloris was equal to everything that came his way, a save from Demarai Gray’s free-kick and Kelechi Iheanacho’s long-range effort the best of his six saves in the match.

His efforts were summed up by gaining a booming round of applause from Mourinho and the bench when claiming a cross in the second half, the Frenchman pivotal to Spurs’ potential future success under Jose.

Ensure you are diligent defensively

Leicester were not without chances, a glance at the xG numbers would suggest that Rodgers’ side were unlucky to lose by a three-goal deficit.

Defensively Spurs did look more assured. Toby Alderweireld’s continued presence helping Davinson Sanchez to achieve a level of consistency that has so far alluded the Columbian this season.

Mourinho labelled Ben Davies ‘Mr. Consistent’ in midweek and the Welshman lived up to his name with a number of blocks while linking nicely with Son down the left throughout Sunday’s match.

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Serge Aurier’s appearances continued to be rightly praised, the Ivorian providing a fairly error-free performance from right-back, Mourinho preferring him to hold his position more when playing Son and Moura from the wide areas.

Encouraged throughout by ‘keeper Lloris, Tottenham’s backline recorded their third clean sheet in five games. A feat that must be built on should Mourinho’s Spurs challenge the top clubs next season.

Jamie Vardy and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have arrived and left North London emptied handed in the last few weeks, a sign of improvement for Tottenham’s usually leaky defence.

No parting gifts

With time running down in the match and Jan Vertonghen’s career at Spurs, many a Tottenham fan would have enjoyed seeing a farewell appearance for the Belgian.

Those Spurs fans should remember that Mauricio Pochettino is gone. Time for sentiment is not of the essence, Mourinho not a man to gift appearances regardless the scoreline, just ask Tanguy Ndombele.

Vertonghen walked around the stadium with a bag from the Spurs shop, the centre-back appearing more as a fan than a part of the Tottenham substitutes.

Often walking down the tunnel during play, Vertonghen knew better than anyone he wouldn’t be called upon no matter the circumstances of his team.

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The ruthless nature of this decision should excite Spurs fans. A leaked video of Spurs’ documentary showed Mourinho telling his team they cannot be nice on the field, although I won’t repeat his alternative suggestion word-for-word.

Perhaps the message is going through slowly. Kane went down holding his face when brushed by Jonny Evans late on, the player making the most out of the challenge. In Argentine duo Lo Celso and Erik Lamela, Mourinho also has players happy to irritate and hassle the opposition whilst honing the dark arts.

‘Super Jan’ was the last to leave the field after the full-time whistle, the man that arrived from Ajax in 2012 just savouring his final home game at Tottenham.

Final thoughts

The factors above culminated in a very happy Sunday afternoon for Spurs fans. 13 points from 15 since the defeat to Sheffield United has lifted the mood in North London.

With many ready to abandon Mourinho’s ideas at the first hurdle, positive results have healed Spurs fans concerns for now. Even if the football isn’t always as desired.

They may yet have to rely on Arsenal not winning the FA Cup for Europa League qualification depending on Wolves’ results but Mourinho’s Tottenham are finishing the season strong, and beginning to show the characteristics which could make them a force again next campaign.

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