Without Harry Kane, Jose Mourinho faces deep trouble at Tottenham

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Melissa Reddy
·3 min read
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Jose Mourinho shows concern for an injured Harry Kane (Getty Images)
Jose Mourinho shows concern for an injured Harry Kane (Getty Images)

At Goodison Park on Friday night, there were 26 minutes of nothingness from Tottenham.

Then Michael Keane failed to head clear Tanguy Ndombele’s cross, with the ball falling to an unmarked Harry Kane, eight yards out.

The England striker took a touch, swivelled and found the bottom left. Just like that, he’d given Spurs a lead they had no business acquiring against Everton.

When Carlo Ancelotti’s men got back in front in a game they looked most likely to win, it was Kane that ensured Tottenham didn’t lose it.

So often, he has been their saving grace and the golden boot giving Jose Mourinho a lifeline in the job.

Kane has been directly involved in 62 goals in 62 appearances in all competitions for Spurs under the Portuguese manager, which includes 17 assists.

When Tottenham have been disjointed, devoid of clear structure and offensive direction, they can still bank on the clinical efficiency of their world-class marksman – as was the case in the draw on Merseyside.

The sight of Kane limping off in stoppage time with a suspected right ankle problem – nine days before the Carabao Cup final and 58 before England’s opener at the European Championship – will feel more gutting than usual for Spurs.

Losing a player of that magnitude at such a crucial juncture is gutting. Losing a player of that magnitude at such a crucial juncture when there is little to no sign of a coherent approach, with cracks everywhere, can be game over.

That is not just for Tottenham’s ambitions, but Mourinho’s spell at the club.

No Premier League side has dropped more points from winning positions this season than his. “I think it has to do with some of our qualities as a team,” the manager said, refusing to go into them.

Mourinho has lost most of the weaponry that marked him out as special, but the art of deflection – as Paul Pogba underscored – remains strong.

By not wanting to discuss what the issues are, that becomes the story rather than what the issues actually are. And the chief one is what Mourinho has reduced this progressive, high-pressing, intense, entertaining team to.

They are passive and porous, not compact enough nor creative enough. Spurs played with two defensive-minded midfielders against Everton, yet allowed Gylfi Sigurdsson the freedom to orchestrate centrally for the hosts.

At no point did the visitors seem invested in actually winning the encounter.

Tottenham - regardless of system and personnel - merely exist in too many games, which is staggering given the talent available to Mourinho.

Now the one that is potentially unavailable for a long period can spotlight just how poor the side is – structurally and aesthetically – sans his goals.

Son Heung-min is exhausted. Ndombele and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg are ghosts of the players they were. The gifts of Gareth Bale and Dele Alli get purposely overlooked.

There is a deficiency of surety and conviction in defence.

Kane has been the sole guiding light, the glue holding flimsy parts together.

He has suffered a catalogue of ankle problems in the past, which will heighten the worry around his diagnosis. He injured both of them earlier this season but returned to action sooner than anticipated.

There were two periods of absences in 2018/19 with a left ankle injury. The campaign prior to that, he missed a month after hurting the opposite one and there were also multi-setbacks in 2016/17.

Kane took his tally of league goals to 21 on Friday, but he also saved Mourinho from an inquisition.

Tottenham, in their current guise, cannot afford to be without him. And neither can their manager, who edges closer to the kind of destructive end that has coloured his recent history.

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