Tanguy Ndombele claims Jose Mourinho ‘created a war inside my head’… but now the Tottenham midfielder has been revived, can the Special One do the same for his suffering Spurs side?
- Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham are in crisis mode after three straight league defeats
- The Spurs boss needs to turn round a season that is slipping away from them
- Mourinho has many underperforming outcasts such as Dele Alli and Gareth Bale
- The Special One needs to show the same love he gave to Tanguy Ndombele
Jose Mourinho did it with Tanguy Ndombele. Now can he do the same with Dele Alli and even Gareth Bale and save Tottenham’s season?
The club sit amidst an identity crisis. What seemed like a title challenge two months ago is meandering into a season of atrophy.
While Mourinho tactics, some way distant from Danny Blanchflower’s glory game, might work with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min fit and firing, they are less palatable with Carlos Vinicius up front and the team falling alarmingly away from the top four.
Jose Mourinho may need to show the same love Tanguy Ndombele got to save Spurs’ season
The Tottenham manager has overseen three straight league defeats to wreck Spurs’ campaign
It was the prospect of failing to make the Champions League that sealed Mauricio Pochettino’s fate, and Mourinho’s appointment was intended to reduce the uncertainty of a top-four finish as well as amplifying the club’s global appeal.
The abject first-half performance against Chelsea certainly attracted worldwide attention, though it’s unlikely it was the kind that chairman Daniel Levy was anticipating when appointing Mourinho.
A Carabao Cup win against Manchester City in April would change the narrative considerably, though experienced Spurs watchers will point out that the League Cup didn’t do much for Juande Ramos and George Graham’s longevity.
Mourinho (left) has several underperforming outcasts such as Dele Alli and Gareth Bale (right)
Right now a game against Championship-bound West Brom has a portentous air.
Fail to win and the familiar tropes held against Mourinho will be discussed at length: that his tactics are old school, that tough love doesn’t work on Millennials and that the grumpy 58-year-old is far removed from the urbane 41-year-old who swaggered into town at Chelsea 17 years ago.
Ndombele offers a ray of hope for Jose believers. The £55million record signing appeared doomed under Mourinho.
Most stinging perhaps was a comment the manager made almost a year ago, after a draw at Burnley, where he substituted Ndombele and his midfield partner Oliver Skipp at half-time.
The way Ndombele (left) was brought in from the cold should give the exiles some hope
‘In the first half we didn’t have a midfield,’ said Mourinho.
‘Of course I’m not speaking of Skipp, because he’s a kid of 19… I don’t criticise him at all. But I’m not going to run away. I have to say he [Ndombele] has had enough time to adapt to a different level.’
There didn’t seem a way back from there and after the Premier League resumed in June, Ndombele managed two substitute appearances.
And yet this season, he has been key to Tottenham and praised by Mourinho. So does Mourinho’s approach still work?
In French, there is an expression, that if you love someone well you will also chastise them — ‘qui aime bien, châtie bien’ — the Francophone equivalent of tough love. When it is put to Ndombele, he smiles.
‘Well yeah that French expression stands, we do say that about the way people are with each other,’ he says.
‘But sometimes the words can be too hard. Or too harsh. For me it created a war in my head. It was difficult to take. It was not enjoyable, but it was not unmerited criticism.
Ndombele is now a key part of Mourinho’s Tottenham after a difficult start with the Special One
‘Well, you can either try to blame others for any slips or errors, or try to laugh about it or brush it off, but you will always go on to reflect properly on what has been said, and take criticism on board.
‘I can’t go in to the details [on what was said with the manager] but it is all good, we can talk openly, have a laugh together, sit down for a meal, no problems.
‘It’s an element of the game, to take criticism. You have to get up again. I am doing better this season on several fronts — primarily no injury. It’s also a question of understanding my team-mates better. Also I have got a strong grasp of what the coach wants… and that has all contributed to this positive frame of mind.
‘Obviously the coach can be quite hard on people. But it’s important you take that message on board and try to find in it the positives and not be floored by the hardness of the message. Now it’s safe to say things are going very well and communications and we are all happy.’
Alli has since received the Mourinho treatment. In an Amazon Prime documentary, the manager called the player ‘f****** lazy’ in front of the team, with Dele laughing nervously.
Ndombele’s story gives hope to the likes of Bale (left) and Alli (right) who are not playing
Bale has been spared public reprimand but Mourinho cannot have been impressed with his performance in the 1-0 defeat to Brighton when given a rare start. It may be harder to bring him back to Premier League levels than Alli.
Last week Alli and Mourinho held talks. The club were not likely to allow him to go to Paris Saint-Germain on loan as it would have made him harder to sell in the summer.
So with that escape route closed, manager and player have a vested interest in reconciliation.
Mourinho needs more creativity; Alli needs games. Maybe the pair require a marriage of convenience. And maybe Ndombele shows that all is not lost.
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