While the timing of Jose Mourinho’s sacking by Tottenham is a surprise, his exit from the club was always on the cards, says Graeme Souness.
Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in November 2019, leading the north London club to a sixth-placed finish in his debut campaign in charge.
However, this season has seen Tottenham struggle under Mourinho, with the club currently five points adrift of the Champions League places, with the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager having lost 10 league matches for the first time in his career.
No Premier League side have dropped more points from winning positions this season than Spurs and while Mourinho did guide them to Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Man City, they also suffered an embarrassing Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb in March.
Mourinho recently told Sky Sports when asked why his side were dropping so many points from winning positions: «That’s what I’m not ready to discuss with you. I think it has to do with some of our qualities as a team, but I’m not ready to discuss with you.»
The talk of dressing-room unrest, however, will ultimately have led to Mourinho’s axing, says Souness.
«I’m surprised, the timing is most unusual with a cup final on the horizon,» said the Sky Sports pundit.
«Something has gone on to bring this all to a head, I don’t think Jose would have been terribly happy with the way league form was going.
«To second guess what’s happened, Jose is an experienced manager and he has become so frustrated with the players. When you’ve tried everything, you end up having harsh words with them and falling out with them. News of unrest in the dressing room then gets back to the decision makers at the club and then there is only one outcome, and that is for the manager to go.»
When Mourinho took over from Pochettino, he declared himself excited to work with the group of players he had inherited from the Argentine and yet just 17 months later, Souness thinks that squad was not as good as he had thought.
«It’s very unusual to sack a manager in the week of a cup final,» Souness said. «Something has happened, or a number of things have happened, that have forced the chairman to make a decision. Does that improve or weaken Spurs’ chances of winning on Sunday, we’ll have to wait and find out?
«When the Spurs job came up so soon after reaching a Champions League final, it didn’t look like there was much wrong with it. But when Jose got in there, he would have realised it wasn’t the squad he thought it was. He quickly realised it was not as strong as he thought it was.
«Jose is used to working with the very best players out there, he’s got so frustrated it has ultimately led to him having words with people and, as always, it’s the manager that goes. It’s an unhealthy situation and relationship. In the football business the tail wags the dog, bang average players can get top managers out of their job.»
When the Spurs job came up so soon after reaching a Champions League final, it didn’t look like there was much wrong with it. But when Jose got in there, he would have realised it wasn’t the squad he thought it was. He quickly realised it was not as strong as he thought it was.
As for Mourinho, despite this latest sacking, Souness still believes the 58-year-old serial trophy winner will interest Europe’s biggest clubs if he can maintain his love for the game.
«He’s a big name, a big manager,» he said. «He will be welcomed by other big clubs. He’s got a track record that is right up there with the very best, he’s got a way of working which isn’t so attractive to a lot of people, but he gets the job done.
«Things haven’t worked at Spurs this time around, he’s left in the week of a cup final, but he did fulfil that ambition by getting them there. I think he will still be attractive to clubs, as long as he still has the appetite.»
Jamie Redknapp speaking after Tottenham’s recent 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United:
«What Jose has done in this period is make them a really tough watch. You can say what you like about Spurs over the last 40 years but they’ve always been a good football team; they’ve always had a style of play.
«If Spurs fans were in here, I don’t think they’d enjoy that one bit. Too often I watch this Spurs side and there’s no real flair, there’s no excitement.
«I don’t think this is a bad squad of players; I’ve said it before and I’ll stand by it.
«This manager has chopped and changed at the back. To play football, you have to have a chemistry, a relationship with whoever you’re playing alongside.
«Earlier in the season, he played with (Pierre-Emile) Hojbjerg and (Moussa) Sissoko in midfield; sometimes they’d go into a back six. It wasn’t a great watch but at least you knew what they were trying to do. They were being defensive and getting results. Right now, they’re trying to be defensive, they’re not getting results and they’re an incredibly tough watch.
«The manager has to take responsibility. We talked in the past about a Jose masterclass; he loved it and celebrated it. If he doesn’t think this is a good squad… well, a great manager would find a way to get his players organised.
«They’re not playing great football and they’re losing matches. It’s not just about the potential of Harry Kane leaving, it’s the financial implications with the stadium, the assets, other players like Dele Alli, Harry Winks. Daniel Levy will not like the fact that his players are devaluing assets. He’ll hate it.»
‘Better squads than Spurs’ in top-four race’
Jamie Carragher speaking after Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Everton on Friday Night Football:
«I mentioned about these teams perhaps not being Champions League level and l think we saw that tonight. People may say that it’s not good enough for Spurs, but l don’t believe that with the squad Tottenham have got they should be in the top four. There are better squads in this league. I felt if Tottenham got into the top four this season it would be a slight over achievement.»