It was not pretty. In fact, at times it was close to unwatchable, but Tottenham’s 2-0 away win over Aston Villa suggested that, for better or for worse, the José Mourinho experiment is not dead…yet.
Mourinho’s future had been seriously questioned this week after Spurs were beaten in the north London derby and dumped out of the Europa League by a team whose manager was sent to prison 48 hours before kick off.
It is hard to overstate just how rancid Thursday’s performance was. Captain Hugo Lloris certainly did not hold back after the game, describing his team’s exit as a ‘disgrace‘. Some of his other comments could also be interpreted as pointed jabs in Mourinho’s direction, fuelling rumours that the former Chelsea boss had lost the dressing room.
If that is true, there was little evidence of it being the case on Sunday at Villa Park. Despite Mourinho ringing the changes – with Japhet Tanganga, Joe Rodon and Giovani Lo Celso being handed rare starts – Tottenham showed the necessary grit and determination to secure a much-needed three points.
Their start was not vintage, but after Carlos Vinicius tapped home Lucas Moura’s cross in the 29th minute they did not look in any serious danger of conceding. It took until the hour mark for the hosts to register an attempt on goal and they ended with an xG of just 0.46. Of course, this must come with the caveat of there being no Jack Grealish in claret and blue, but even still, there can be few complaints about the performances of Tanganga, Davinson Sanchez or Rodon at the back.
In the attacking third, Mourinho’s Spurs also require some credit. At this point it goes without saying that Kane is brilliant and his clever winning and subsequent conversion of a second-half penalty took him to within 100 goals of Alan Shearer’s Premier League goalscoring record.
Spurs’ supporting cast were also impressive. After that aforementioned slow start, they started clicking. Vinicius grabbed his first league strike and his compatriot, Moura, caught the eye with some positive runs into the box. Meanwhile, Ndombele was unplayable at times, toying with Villa’s midfield with a sizeable repertoire of flicks and feints.
The result moves Tottenham up to sixth in the table, just one shy of West Ham in fifth and three adrift of the Champions League places. Add to this their Carabao Cup final against Manchester City next month and suddenly things do not look so apocalyptically bad as they did on Thursday night.
After that humiliation, this Villa win was desperately needed. While the chances of Mourinho’s tenure ending in tears are still extremely high, the performance at least proved that there is still some fight left in the north Londoners as we approach the business end of the season.
While a piece of silverware and top-four finish are tantalisingly within reach, the threat of a trophyless campaign and return to the Europa League still looms large.