Change at the top always shifts the dynamic and the departure of Mauricio Pochettino and arrival of Jose Mourinho will bring fresh hope for a few of Tottenham’s misfits.
In particular, eyes will be fixed on Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Danny Rose, who were earmarked for the exit by Pochettino but were transfer targets for Mourinho at Manchester United.
Another entitled to be excited at the prospect of a new start will be Lucas Moura, who has started only seven games in seven months since his heroic hat-trick in the Champions League semi-final at Ajax.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho has vowed to take Harry Kane to the next level at Tottenham
Mourinho was all smiles as he gave his first press conference at the club this week
‘When Lucas was at Sao Paulo, before he moved to Paris Saint-Germain, I tried to get him to Real Madrid,’ said Mourinho. ‘I met his mum and dad, met with his agent, we spoke in Madrid but PSG came in and we didn’t get him.
‘There are others recently and some others who we don’t even think about buying because we know it is impossible. So you just admire the player, wish to have him, but forget about it.’
Harry Kane falls squarely into this category. Antonio Conte coveted Kane when in charge at Chelsea. ‘He was wasting his time,’ said Mourinho.
‘As managers we must have this feeling of what is possible and what is not. When you try to buy Kane it’s just an impossible mission.’
A hat-tip there to chairman Daniel Levy. No one relishes the call to Levy to ask for one of his stars. ‘I used to be in clubs that fear him,’ said Mourinho. ‘It’s great to have him on my side.’
Mourinho does not expect Kane (right) to be sold and will build his team around him
So the new head coach does not expect Kane to be sold and will build his team to suit him, starting at West Ham.
‘This is not about me,’ he explained. ‘This is about Mr Levy and the club. He has a vision and part of that is to make the club better and bigger. There is no better and bigger club without a better and bigger team. So, to keep the best players is obviously part of that plan.
‘It was not like a promise to me. It was part of his explanation about his vision. Without being specific about players he told me he does not sell players when the manager doesn’t want to sell.’
Having coached Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho appreciates the value of an elite striker and sees Kane in this bracket — once he starts to win trophies.
‘He’s one of the best strikers in the world, no doubt,’ said Mourinho. ‘He just needs his team with him, if his team is England or Tottenham, to bring him or to go with him to the next level.
He keeps a close eye on his first-team stars ahead of Saturday’s visit to rivals West Ham
Mourinho looked incredibly animated as he took control of training on his second day
‘And what is the next level? Titles. I think he needs to win. He needs to bring something to highlight his quality, the goals he scores, what he brings to the team. He is a top striker and I’ve worked with some of the top ones.’
Son Heung-min, Moura and Giovani Lo Celso mean Mourinho can deploy the style he often favours in England with a single centre forward flanked by pace and energy.
It will be most fascinating to see if he can relight Dele Alli’s fire. Does he persist with the Pochettino plan and use him virtually as a striker? Or turn him back to a box-to-box runner with an eye for goal, like Frank Lampard or Michael Ballack with added devilment which is sure to appeal.
‘I have spoken with him and asked if he was Dele or Dele’s brother,’ said Mourinho. ‘He told me he was Dele. “OK,” I said, “play like Dele”. He is potentially a fantastic player.
‘I have to create a tactical situation he is happy with, give him the right dynamics and prepare him physically because he has had important injuries and he is not on the top of his form.
Mourinho wants Dele Alli to ‘play like Dele’ after a quiet start to the season on the pitch
‘I cannot expect him to go to West Ham — if he plays — and be man of the match. But he needs to go through a process to bring the real Dele back because the real Dele is the one who has impressed us all.’
Tanguy Ndombele, an injury doubt, and Moussa Sissoko offer the stamina and presence Mourinho likes in midfield.
With Harry Winks and Eric Dier he can flex easily from a 4-3-3 shape or 4-2-3-1, perhaps depending on the opposition, but he will be wary of losing the service to Kane.
Christian Eriksen is the creative force. His contract dispute counts against him, as do his poor form and similarities to Juan Mata: not combative enough for Mourinho in midfield, not quick enough out wide.
Mourinho gives out instructions to Son Heung-min during Thursday’s training session
It will be about ‘small tweaks’ not wholesale change from the new boss but he accepts the need to strengthen in defence. Right back has been a lingering problem since Kieran Trippier was sold and Dier may find his future lies at centre half as Spurs plan for life after Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who is also doubtful.
‘I’m not going to try to be Einstein,’ said Mourinho. ‘I’m going to try to make the players play the way I want. Offensive football but winning matches.
‘Not offensive football and don’t win a match for 10 or 11 months. But, yes, attacking football. You are not going to see Harry Kane playing at left back that is for sure.’
Was this a first dig at Pochettino? He has been careful not to offend but it is 10 or 11 months since Spurs won away in the Premier League. That will not have been lost on Mourinho. Very little is.