When Liverpool defeated Manchester City 3-1 just before the international break, it opened an eight-point gap at the summit of the English Premier League table. Many a pundit, including the football media, were already calling in the close of a title fight this season, and they could be forgiven for toeing this line of thought.
Even Jose Mounrinho, then a pundit on Sky Sports, declared that Liverpool’s undefeated season of drawing just once in twelve matches means a title race is non-existent, albeit with a caveat. The 11 wins accumulated included the defeat of reigning league champions Manchester City, a Josef ‘Pep’ Guardiola oiled machine that can blow any opposition away with one blistering attack.
Although, the Video Assistant Referee, VAR brings controversy every match week, and there has been many to choose from, including an inch of a toe saving Tottenham against Sheffield United and Roberto Firmino’s armpit adjudged offside at Aston Villa (how the camera and VAR decision-makers made that up I still cannot fathom). These do not equate to the drama starting out at Tottenham Hotspurs.
It began with the surprise sacking of their hitherto star and manager, Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday night. Truly, the North London club has been struggling since the giddy height of making the Champions League final at the end of last season. A disastrous start to the season with just three wins from 12 matches is exacerbated by the fact that the club spent heavily this summer (over £53 million for Tanguy Ndombele) in comparison with not spending at all last summer.
However, the real excitement was served less than 12 hours later on Wednesday morning when the club’s charismatic Chairman, Daniel Levy, announced the appointment of Jose Mourinho on a three-and-half-year deal.
As caveat, Mourinho mentioned the possibility of injuries to Liverpool’s squad or an extraordinary event happening in the EPL could make the season more exciting to watch, and his appointment fits the latter. Can we assume Mourinho knew he was about to be appointed manager at Tottenham? Is his appointment enough to put fear in the minds of those occupying the three slots behind Liverpool in the race for top-four? Leicester, with a young and dynamic squad, have been punching above their weight in second while a youthful Chelsea are also blossoming under Frank Lampard at the Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho, 56, is a charismatic character who feeds the press on both good and bad days. His return to the dugout has brought the giddy, angry and vitriolic response from many and he will continue to divide opinion. This is especially true because nobody is sure of the Mourinho that will appear for this job.
Is it the cool Jose of Porto and Chelsea I, Rebellious Jose of Inter, Real Madrid and Chelsea II or the new catastrophic Jose revealed to the world while at Manchester United?
The enigmatic character has, within 24 hours of being Spurs’ manager, promised “passion, real passion” and has thrown his first salvo, declaring that he will try “everything to bring happiness to everyone who loves the club.” Who fits your love bill, Jose?
One certainty, however, is that the former Manchester United manager will attack. Not on the field where he loves to defend before the counter, but in his press conferences, training and the dugout. The Portuguese will attack managers, opposition players, club owners and even his own players when the relationship becomes strained- Manchester United players can give an essay on that!
Therefore, as Tottenham open the week at West Ham in the early kick-off on Saturday, real excitement starts, and we await the Mourinho on show. Perhaps a scuffle with West Ham’s Manuel Pellegrini or passion when Harry Kane scores the winning goal? We await the outcome as we rub palms in anticipation.
Welcome back to the EPL, Jose Mourinho, your spirit never left!