Dier loses cool as Spurs slide and Mourinho struggles
Eric Dier’s confrontation with a Tottenham supporter in the stands after they were knocked out of the FA Cup showed that the club’s season is in danger of crumbling fast.
The Dier incident may have dominated the headlines after Wednesday’s home defeat to Norwich — he was apparently defending his brother — but Spurs fans will be more concerned by the lack of progress under Jose Mourinho, just three months after he was appointed.
Mourinho used a colourful analogy a fortnight ago alluding to Spurs’ season, saying they were hanging onto a balcony due to injuries to talismanic striker Harry Kane, Korean star Son Heung-min, influential French midfielder Moussa Sissoko and World Cup-winning captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The FA Cup shootout defeat to Norwich on Wednesday — Spurs’ fourth successive defeat in all competitions — only deepened the problem for last season’s Champions League finalists.
They trail RB Leipzig 1-0 going into the Champions League last 16-second leg next week in Germany having been outplayed in the first meeting and their chances of qualifying for Europe’s top competition next season hang in the balance too.
Chelsea presently occupies the fourth and final place, five points better off than Spurs with 10 matches to go.
This was not meant to be when Daniel Levy — who has poured a fortune into the club, primarily due to the state-of-the-art new stadium — brutally replaced Mauricio Pochettino with Mourinho in November.
Pochettino, who was so admired for developing young talent, appeared to have lost his way and the dressing room only months since losing to Liverpool in the Champions League final.
Levy hoped that bringing in Mourinho, who has a reputation for being a winner despite all the baggage he brings with him, would deliver the club’s first trophy for 12 years. The unlikely figure of Juande Ramos is the last Spurs manager to have guided the side to silverware — the 2008 League Cup.
‘Was completely dead’
Dier’s dramatic intervention at the end of the Norwich game comes after a series of matches where he has attracted supporters’ ire.
His lack of adventure in his role as a defensive midfielder has made him a magnet for fans disenchanted with the club’s lack of progress.
Mourinho, though, has not escaped criticism despite his defence that injuries have destroyed the season.
His selection policy has been questioned and his line-up on Wednesday was the fourth time in as many matches he has changed formations.
His decision to select goalkeeper Michel Vorm — the Dutchman’s first start in 533 days — proved disastrous as made a glaring error allowing the Canaries to level.
If the fans hope for an upturn in their fortunes and a revival of their challenge for the Champions League spot — fifth might prove good enough if Manchester City lose their appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against a two-year European ban — then Mourinho did not supply much optimism after the Norwich reverse.
Indeed he implied there would be more changes for the next game against Burnley on Saturday due to fatigue and with the return leg with Leipzig next Tuesday looming.
“Harry Winks was completely dead,” said Mourinho. “I think he’s started 11-12 games in a row.
“In this moment I have to think about what’s next and I have to speak to my club because I think some of these boys, to have a chance to fight Tuesday for a Champions League position, they just can’t play on Saturday.”
Mourinho, who has cut a calmer, less angry figure than he did at previous clubs, remains steadfastly loyal to his players, in public at least.
“I don’t have one single negative feeling towards my players — the opposite,” he said.
“I can cope with the bad result and with negative moments. I’ve had so many, but I am really sad for the players.”