Jose Mourinho won five of his first seven Premier League matches in charge of Tottenham, but there are now doubts to quell going into this FA Cup third-round tie at much improved Middlesbrough.
After just one clean sheet in nine in the league as well as two limp and incoherent performances against Manchester United and Chelsea, it is difficult to decipher Mourinho’s plans for this team.
A new manager – particularly one appointed in the middle of the season – ought to be given time to instill his ideas and re-mold the team in his image, but is that what Tottenham are planning?
Mourinho has preferred working with more mature squads in the past and has successfully persuaded Toby Alderweireld to stay, and seems keen to tie down Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier. Christian Eriksen is likely to leave, but Spurs have invested in Tanguy Ndombele and will be understandably keen to keep Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son – so where is the scope for a full-scale rebuild?
The absence of Kane and Ndombele through injury makes Tottenham’s task more difficult this afternoon, although Son is back from suspension and likely to lead the line.
Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough looked nailed on relegation candidates in the season’s early weeks but have turned things around over the festive period with four straight wins in the Championship.
They will be without captain Daniel Ayala though, and are very much underdogs against a free-scoring Spurs attack.
Mourinho has taken domestic cup competitions seriously, winning the League Cup in (********************, (and 2015 at Chelsea and the FA Cup in 2007, and also reached the final of this competition with Manchester United in 2019.
Tottenham have not won a piece of silverware since the 2008 League Cup, and the FA Cup remains their best chance to end the drought Despite their progress to the Champions League knockout stages.
Team news shortly.