Tottenham’s decline under Jose Mourinho is there for all to see. By IAN LADYMAN

The best media seat in the Premier League used to be at White Hart Lane. Directly behind the dugouts, it didn’t help much if you wanted to observe patterns of play, but if you required a view of how fast, physical and athletic modern football is, then it could not be beaten.
It was particularly impressive viewing back when Mauricio Pochettino was building something at Tottenham.

Players such as Toby Alderweireld, Kyle Walker, Moussa Dembele, Eric Dier and Harry Kane were prototype Premier League footballers. Big, quick, clever players, designed to win the 100-yard dash and rounds one, two and three of the big fight all at the same time.
It must have been a rare old time to be a Spurs fan. Pochettino was smart, likeable and a young coach with a clear plan.


I recall them playing Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at home in October 2016. Guardiola’s first season in England had been marked by a 100 per cent start to the league season, but Tottenham beat them 2-0 that day.

The energy of Pochettino’s players as they ran all over City was fabulous to watch.
Spurs finished second that season after running Leicester close the year before. Two seasons later, they reached a Champions League final
So to see Tottenham so diminished now is sobering. Their decline has not been particularly dramatic or spectacular. It will not make for car-crash TV when the Amazon Prime series about the club is aired later this summer.

Nevertheless, ahead of Monday night’s home game against Everton, the club’s regression is steady and threatening to take them closer to Burnley, Newcastle and Crystal Palace than it is to the teams in the European places. The concern for them now is that this shift becomes permanent.
The appointment of Jose Mourinho was probably not the right one but it’s lazy to say he could never be successful there. It is not completely inconceivable that he could make Spurs a top four club again but to do so he would need money that he just is not going to get.

Certainly the manager is not the only cloud that will hover over Tottenham’s beautiful new stadium at kick-off on Monday night.

The club borrowed £637million to build their home and what was a huge sum a year ago seems altogether more significant in the Covid-19 era.

With no supporters spending money, two American football fixtures cancelled — the first one held at the stadium last October generated £1m in beer sales alone — and Champions League qualification no longer likely, it stands to reason that Tottenham will not be breaking a long-term habit of parsimony when the transfer window opens.And that, more than anything, is the problem. Of all the missteps made at Spurs in recent times, the mismanagement of the squad has harmed the club the most.
Some good players — Walker, Kieran Trippier, Christian Eriksen — have moved on. Others — Dier, Dele Alli — have regressed, while many of the replacements — Serge Aurier, Davinson Sanchez, Tanguy Ndombele — have not yet made a significant mark at the club.

It does not really matter who your manager is if your players aren’t good enough and, although Mourinho is clearly a major part of the problem at Spurs, he is not the whole problem. Not by a long way, but his tactics probably belonged to the last century.

And this is what is sad — not so much what Tottenham will become under Mourinho, but thinking instead about everything they have lost under him is scary.

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