Mourinho: Tottenham have to be pragmatic to try and build something

Jose Mourinho Tottenham 2019-20
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The Portuguese has opened up on the winning mentality he is trying to get across to his players at Spurs amid an ongoing injury crisis

Jose Mourinho has expressed his belief that Tottenham must be more "strategic than philosophical" in order to develop a winning habit and challenge the elite.

Mourinho was drafted in to replace Mauricio Pochettino in the Spurs hot seat back in November, after almost a year out of work following his sacking at Manchester United.

The 56-year-old inherited a squad which had fallen into the bottom half of the Premier League table, but he initially oversaw an immediate turnaround in fortunes - winning five of his first seven games in charge.

However, since losing 2-0 at home to Chelsea on December 22, Tottenham have only picked up one win in five matches, and now find themselves 11 points adrift of the Champions League places.

Spurs produced an improved display when league leaders Liverpool arrived in north London last Saturday, but still succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in the absence of first-choice striker Harry Kane, who has been ruled out of action until April with a hamstring injury.

Hugo Lloris, Moussa Sissoko, Ben Davies and Tanguy Ndombele also missed the match, with Mourinho admitting that he is having to adopt a pragmatic approach at Tottenham in order to "build something".

“It helps to [always] have the mentality to win the next match. It doesn’t matter which competition it is, how many injuries we have or what you’re trying to be," he told the Evening Standard.

“To have imagination, to be creative, to try to build something that can make you believe you can win the match, just like we were convinced we could beat Liverpool, that’s the way you create a winning mentality. 

“You go for every game and you try, even if you have to be more strategic than philosophical. Philosophical is when you follow a certain philosophy and everything is in place to follow it.

“But another thing is when you’re in trouble and you have to be pragmatic, creative and try to build something. That’s what we did against Liverpool."

Speaking ahead of an FA Cup third-round replay against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, Mourinho added: "You have to try to give the players that winning mentality even when you are in a difficult situation like we are. And that’s what we want to do. So [on Tuesday] we try again, we try to win again.

“I think by the reaction of the fans against Liverpool, they understood that the players did everything in that game and they didn’t get what they deserve. For a team that loses a match, it’s a very good feeling.”

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The Portuguese tactician went on to recall how his side performed in a 3-2 victory over West Ham on November 23, which marked his first appearance in the Tottenham dugout.

“You can talk about philosophy or you can talk about trying to achieve the maximum you can,” Mourinho said. “And you can try to do both at the same time which is what I tried to do since day one. 

"I had two days of work and I think against West Ham we showed by glimpses — without that dynamic and autonomism — what we wanted to create. In this moment, it’s difficult. So let’s fight.”