Alex Keble assesses the pros and cons of Tottenham hiring Jose Mourinho as manager, and predicts there is an equal chance of it being a success or a disaster...
Tottenham Hotspur have appointed Jose Mourinho as their new manager within 12 hours of sacking Mauricio Pochettino in one of the most brutal, unprecedented days in the club's history. The two coaches could hardly be more different. In the blink of an eye Daniel Levy has turned everything upside down; has thrown Spurs right into the centre of the Premier League story for 2019/20.
It could work. It could be a disaster. More likely it'll be both, because the fact Mourinho is 'one of the most successful managers in football', per Levy's statement today, is only half the story.
The siege mentality, the negative tactics, the ignoring of young players, the third-season implosion... no wonder Betfair are offering 7/1 on Mourinho to be out the door before the end of the current season.
And yet... the longer one considers Mourinho at Spurs the more it starts to make sense. Here's a list of the pros and cons of his appointment - and an assessment of his in-tray.
Mourinho wins things. Even at Manchester United he lifted the Europa League, and given the catastrophe now engulfing that club we can perhaps reassess his time at Old Trafford as a minor triumph. Significantly, like most clubs Mourinho has worked for prior to United Spurs are underdogs in the league - and that means his siege mentality approach could work.
The Portuguese should be capable of galvanising this group of players to overcome the odds in 2020/21, particularly given that his tactics and player preference makes Tottenham surprisingly well-equipped for a stint with Mourinho. Harry Kane is the perfect Mou striker, hard-working and selfless, while there is power in the Spurs back line and counter-attacking craft in midfield, and pace on the wings for Mourinho's defence-first, fast-break tactics to take hold.
More importantly, he is the disciplinarian Tottenham need to resolve the current dressing room concerns. The likes of Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen, and Danny Rose will either be whipped into shape or decisively isolated; it won't take long for Mourinho to get a core group pulling in the same direction.
And then there's Mourinho's reputation as one of the best managers in the history of the game. That could inspire Spurs' bigger players to sign new deals - if they start to believe Premier League titles are on their way - and it could even help shift Spurs permanently into the elite level.
Even if things ultimately collapse, and even if Mourinho fails to win the title, having attracted him in the first place may propel Tottenham into the bracket of super-clubs who can then appoint the top-tier coaches.
He'll need a big budget, of course, but if he gets it then Tottenham's strong squad, hunger for success, and newness at the top of the table actually make them just the sort of place Mourinho could rediscover his verve.
That final point is a pretty big 'if', of course. Levy's constant brinkmanship - both in buying and selling players - has ultimately led to Pochettino's demise, and it's hard to imagine the Spurs chairman will bow to pressure from someone as confrontational and egotistical as Mourinho. If Mourinho sulked and pouted at United, just imagine how openly angry he will be when the summer rolls around and it takes months for Levy to get deals over the line. It's a recipe for a toxic relationship.
Fans might not take to him either, not after Pochettino was so popular with wildly opposing methods - and not if Mourinho brings dull football and a poisonous atmosphere, risking all those years of steady progress under the Argentine.
And that's the biggest issue of all. Pochettino steadily built something special, which Mourinho will now promptly tear to shreds. Young players are unlikely to get a chance, high-profile older players will be signed over youngsters who can grow in value at the club, and the tactics will lurch in the opposite direction.
Here was an opportunity for continuity, for an intelligent appointment of a young Pochettino-esque coach to continue the long-term development of Tottenham. Instead, the team will be rebuilt in an entirely different image, reflecting the tactical oscillations between coaches that have always defined Levy's time as chairman. From Harry Redknapp to Andres Villas-Boas to Tim Sherwood, Tottenham's changes led to years of instability.
Pochettino bucked the trend in spite of Levy, not because of him. The outgoing manager worked wonders on a restricted budget and Levy, unqualified to deal with the genius that landed on his doorstep, continually messed him around before throwing him out completely.
Mourinho has never succeeded on a tight budget, and doesn't suffer fools gladly. If Levy couldn't deal with Pochettino or support the man who took Spurs to a Champions League final, then what makes him think he can handle someone as tempestuous and self-serving as Jose?
Mourinho's in-tray and first steps
There is no immediate pressure to get results, because Spurs surely cannot close the 11-point gap to Man City in fourth (they're currently 3/1 for a top-four finish), while the three-point gap to Arsenal in sixth is easy to make up. Finishing above their rivals is a realistic, and simple, first step. (Beyond that, there's no reason why Spurs can't go all the way in the FA Cup, which looks worth a bet at 7/1.)
And so the first thing Mourinho needs to do is decide whether to ostracise the want-away players or convince them to stay, and surely the latter option makes most sense; Eriksen and Alderweireld don't need to look elsewhere when such a reputable coach sits in the dugout. Bringing these players in from the cold can give Spurs an immediate lift.
The next task is to sort out Spurs' central midfield, which probably means converting someone into a proper Mourinho defensive midfielder. Eric Dier could potentially fill the Nemanja Matic role, although Moussa Sissoko or Tanguy Ndombele are safer bets. Installing a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1, and curbing Sissoko's wilder instincts, should give Spurs the strong foundation they have lacked in 2019/20.
Tightening up the defence and riding on a new manager bounce should give Mourinho enough momentum until January, when he'll want a flood of new signings. It's worth noting the Portuguese hasn't taken charge of a club mid-season since Porto in 2002, so we cannot be sure he will insist on new recruits, although a centre-back, a right-back, a defensive midfielder, and a winger will be on his wish list. He could even go direct for Matic, priced at 7/2 to join Spurs in January.
Certainly any current Spurs targets will be scrapped. Pochettino wanted to invest in young players to bring the average age of the squad down and revitalise his high-energy press, whereas focuses on established pros; Gareth Bale, at 7/2 to sign in the next window, is suddenly a realistic prospect.
How readily Levy dips into his pocket, and how Mourinho responds to this early power play, will go some way to answering whether the Portuguese is a good fit or a recipe for disaster.