Jose Mourinho has praised his Tottenham Hotspur players’ mentality after a last-gasp Harry Kane goal gave Spurs a vital 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion – in a game where Spurs showed their ability to “win ugly”.
Below-Par Tottenham Hotspur Grab Crucial Three Points Against Resilient West Brom
Mourinho Praises Mentality of Tottenham Players Following Win
Speaking after the game, Mourinho made it clear that the team is developing a strong collective spirit, despite the intense competition for places: “We defended well. We made a crucial save, the team defended very, very well. The team had great solidarity.
“There is always a bit of sadness for the boys that don’t start matches. They all work the same, they all give everything to try and be on the team sheet.
“We are a team and the boys are behaving like a team.”
Asked on whether Tottenham could win the title this season, Mourinho replied: “I promise you I’m not worried about Leicester v Wolves, or City v Liverpool. If Liverpool wins, it is because City loses points. If Leicester wins, it is because Wolves dropped points.
“So I don’t care, I just want the team to play match after match, and then at the end of the season let’s see where we are.”
Tottenham Hotspur Players Look to Bury ‘Spurs-y’ Tag
It looked as if it was going to be yet another ‘Spurs-y’ performance from Jose Mourinho’s side. Up against one of this season’s prime relegation candidates, boasting arguably the most intimidating forward line in the club’s history, and with a chance to go top of the table for the first time since 2014 – everything was set for Tottenham to, once again, leave their supporters high and dry.
They certainly tried hard to make that a reality. For large sections of the game, Tottenham looked weary, short on ideas, and rarely the team in the ascendancy.
In the end, it was Harry Kane who stepped up to make the difference, as he so often does. The England captain’s deft header past West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone from Matt Doherty’s cross was the only real positive from the game.
Yet that in itself is the mark of title-winners – or, title-contenders at least. The ability to win games when you’re well below your best is a hallmark of some of the greatest sides in Premier League history. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United sides often ground out similar victories.
So did Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team just last year.
Spurs still have a long way to go before reaching that level. Their capitulation against West Ham United a few weeks ago is evidence that the winning mentality isn’t yet set in stone at the club.
However, the win against West Brom will give Tottenham confidence that even when they’re not demolishing sides 6-1, they still have the capacity to take all three points.
Indeed, it’s not the first time Tottenham have done it the hard way this season. Victories against Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley earlier this season were equally hard-fought when the team wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
As it stands though, Spurs are top of the table albeit maybe only for a few hours. The fans can’t ask for much more than that.
Kane Scores 150th Premier League Goal
Kane’s winner was his 150th goal in the Premier League since making his debut in 2012. To put his achievement into context: only Alan Shearer and Sergio Aguero reached the landmark at a quicker rate than Kane.
It was Kane’s 13th strike of the season, to go along with his ten assists.
It also comes just days after he scored his 200th goal for the club, in his 300th appearance.
If Kane stays fit – which is more likely this season after Carlos Vinicius’ arrival – then Tottenham will have the firepower and creativity to propel them to the Premier League title.
To win and score my 150th Premier League goal… perfect afternoon ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/ouiGPX41AE
— Harry Kane (@HKane) November 8, 2020
However, Mourinho believes Kane’s overall work rate is what makes the striker so special to the team: “When you go to stats in relation to the strikers, I always say that the stats should be how many goals has a striker scored, and what he did for his team in the matches where he didn’t score. And many of the strikers that history will show an incredible number of goals that they score, plus zero.
“Harry Kane you have to say has this many goals, this many assists, this number of balls recovered, this number of duels won. This number of balls that he saved his team in a defensive set-piece. This is Harry Kane. It’s goals plus this and this and this and that.
“For me it’s not one more goal or one less goal, it’s about what he is as a player.”
Mourinho’s Doherty Conundrum
Since Kieran Trippier left for Atletico Madrid last summer, there has been a lack of quality at full-back for Tottenham.
Last season, Serge Aurier was often maligned for wasteful crosses and chaotic defending. Spurs fans were crying out for an upgrade on the Ivory Coast international.
Matt Doherty’s arrival from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the last transfer window for a cut-price fee looked to be exactly that. The Irishman looked to be bringing defensive solidity, having kept 12 clean sheets in his last season with Wolves, along with attacking prowess. Doherty recorded eight goals and assists in the Premier League across two seasons.
Doherty’s assist for Kane’s goal was his first contribution in the league this season. While that does keep him on track to equal his rate of assists, it will concern Mourinho that Doherty isn’t displaying a willingness to get forward in the same way as he did for Wolves.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, Doherty is playing in a back four, when in reality he is a wing-back. Without the protection of an extra centre-back behind him, Doherty’s attacking instincts have been tempered.
That was evident during Doherty’s performance for Tottenham during the win against West Bromwich Albion.
More often than not, Doherty’s first action with the ball was to pass sideways or backwards.
He very rarely found himself at the West Brom byline, putting in crosses for the forwards to attack.
Secondly, Sergio Reguilon on the opposite side of the pitch is equally, if not more attacking than Doherty. However, if the Spaniard loses the ball high up the pitch, his abundance of pace enables him to recover quickly.
Doherty is certainly not at the same level of athleticism as his Spanish teammate.
Spurs would be left wide open to counter-attacks if Doherty was to mimic Reguilon’s positioning.
A switch to a 3-5-2 formation would benefit Doherty. It would mirror the formation in which he excelled at Wolves. However, the likelihood of Mourinho moving away from his favoured four-man defence is unlikely.
For now, Doherty will have to learn the right-back role on the job. The assist today will give him confidence at least.