Toby Alderweireld says that Tottenham are happy to remain the counter-attack kings, despite criticism of their style of play under Jose Mourinho.
Spurs, who take on Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester on Sunday, can go second behind Liverpool if they win and Alderweireld says that Mourinho’s ability to confront the team with hard truths is helping to mould a winning mentality at the club, which hasn’t won a trophy since 2008.
Asked about the criticism that they win games despite losing out in possession stats, Alderweireld said: ‘It doesn’t bother us. You can’t put everything on us. Sometimes the opponent is good. It’s the Premier League.
Tottenham are happy to remain the counter-attack kings this season, says Toby Alderweireld
‘Arsenal have a good team, City have a good team, Liverpool have a good team. They want to press us and sometimes it’s difficult for us to get underneath their press.
‘Then it’s a totally different game you are asking from us. Then we have to fight, then we have to defend, we have to be solid.
‘I think that we did it so good that people think we are just doing it because we are so good at it. We are not arrogant to say, “Every game we decide how we want to play”.
‘No, we want to play in their half, we want to play attacking football, but sometimes the opponent has so much quality and plays very well and it’s difficult for us.
‘Then there’s a reality check, like, “Look, if this happens, we do this, and then we defend, and then we try to hurt them in the counter-attack”. It’s not only our game, or our decision, to do this.’
The defender feels the way Spurs have been playing is underappreciated
And the Tottenham defender, a veteran of some of the team’s near misses over the years, such as the Premier League title race with Sunday’s opponents Leicester in 2016 and the Champions League final defeat in 2019, says that Mourinho’s direct management style, telling it how it is, suits an experienced team.
Alderweireld said: ‘He’s exactly what I thought he would be. He’s a very honest person who says everything in your face. Even if it’s not nice, he will say it. That’s the way to go if you want to be a big team, if you want to get results. That’s the way he needs to be.
‘We play in a very adult way, I would say. He doesn’t even get the recognition he deserves. I know he’s a very, very good manager.
‘He’s one of the best, maybe the best, at getting results. That’s the most difficult thing in football — getting a result.
‘You can play well. But everybody wants to win. He’s showed everywhere, in every competition, that he can and he did. You have to have a lot of respect for him. My personal view, working with him every day, he’s obsessed by football, he’s obsessed by winning.
‘But not only winning, also how we want to play as a team. He makes us a team, not only the guys that play, but even on the bench, involved in the squad.
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‘To be a team, to have a goal and to do everything in your powers to reach that goal. I see that 100 per cent as a positive thing.
‘I think everyone [in the squad] has experience now in the Premier League. Everyone knows how important it is. We need to dig deep because it’s the Premier League. Every team now has quality, every team.
‘You see it in the results, every team can beat every team. So you need to be defensively solid. I think that’s big steps that we took from the last season, that we are difficult to score against.
‘That’s not only about the defenders or goalkeeper, it’s about the team. We know how to play as a team. We took some massive steps.’