Tottenham Hotspur players have reportedly become bored under the training methods deployed by Jose Mourinho and long for the return of sessions held by his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino.
Spurs are on a terrible run which has seen them take just 12 points from their last 12 Premier League games, while they have been beaten in six of their last seven domestic encounters.
The weekend’s 2-1 London derby defeat at West Ham saw Mourinho defend his methods as ‘second to nobody in the world’ but it now does not appear much of his squad is on board.
According to the Athletic, Mourinho’s ways have split the dressing room with an increasing amount of players unhappy with the way he works.
The former Manchester United and Chelsea manager, who took over from Pochettino in November 2019, has drastically altered the approach taken by his predecessor by easing the workload to such an extent that the players wish they were working harder.
Pochettino would demand double sessions and fewer days off, which proved unpopular at the time but reaped minor rewards in securing four consecutive top four finishes as well as a run to the Champions League final.
However, those same methods would likely be unsuitable in the Covid-19 effected season which in a tightly packed schedule has seen Tottenham play more games than any of the side in the top five leagues – 40 since September.
But the report claims that Spurs focus too much on trying to perfect their defensive play and not making mistakes, leading to many players becoming ‘bored and frustrated, citing hours spent on trying to defend throw-ins prior to an encounter with Liverpool or find success with attacking crosses against West Ham.
With so much focus on these types of areas, there is a feeling the attacking players are reliant on moves and finishes they had learned under Pochettino due to the little detailed attacking work on the training ground.
An Athletic source told them: ‘Everything has changed, even the training is so defensively minded now,. There is no plan to move the ball forward. The plan is to defend, boot the ball up to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, and that’s it.’
The apparent demands from the Spurs squad are startling considering the collapse in Tottenham’s form during Pochettino’s final 11 months at the club.
Despite their run to the Champions League final, which saw them survive many scares along the way, their domestic form nosedived and prior to Mourinho’s November arrival they had not won a Premier League game away from home since January of that year.
Players had also admitted that the Argentine’s methods had become flawed, with even midfielder Moussa Sissoko publicly admitting the diamond formation the team played proved deeply unpopular with a team under severe physical fatigue.
Following Spurs’ record European home defeat by Bayern Munich when they lost 7-2, the Frenchman said: ‘We get tired too quickly physically when we play with a diamond midfield.’
By the end of Pochettino’s tenure, his side were labouring in creating chances against defences dropping deep, a situation Mourinho now finds himself at with Spurs.
The Portuguese had looked like turning Spurs back into a major force earlier in the season with tactical masterclass wins on the counter attack to defeat Manchester City, Arsenal and at Manchester United where they won 6-1.
It appears his methods are still getting the support from key players such as Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and summer signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg but the club’s form has dwindled drastically since topping the table in December.
Following the latest defeat at the London Stadium, Mourinho appears to have shifted the blame away from himself, insisting: ‘(there are) problems in the team that I cannot resolve by myself as a coach.’
Mourinho’s position is strengthened by his £15million-per-year contract which would leave Spurs having to pay a huge severance package, but even so if form does not improve a look to his successor appears to already be underway, with RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann a reported target.