나는t has only been a matter of days but, to Toby Alderweireld, it is already plain. After the turbulence of the José Mourinho era, the reservations about his style that built to a tipping point, Tottenham have gone back to the future with the appointment of Ryan Mason. “You can see the similarities between Ryan and Mauricio Pochettino, how he wants to train, how his sessions are,” Alderweireld says. “It feels very familiar. He will bring his own view of football and his own ideas but we can see the similarities, for sure.
“Everyone knows he played at Spurs under Pochettino, he has a lot of ideas from him and we only can agree that’s very good. Everyone was performing very well under Pochettino and so Ryan’s mind in football is positive – it’s going forward and everyone is seeing his ideas. Even though it’s quite early, it’s a positive vibe he brings.”
It is often the case in football – and certainly during Daniel Levy’s 20-year chairmanship at Spurs – that when a managerial change is made, the new man is a reaction to the old one. Levy, 예를 들면, has bounced from Glenn Hoddle to David Pleat to Jacques Santini; from Juande Ramos to Harry Redknapp to André Villas-Boas.
Pochettino to Mourinho in November 2019 was quite the shift, with Levy betting on the latter’s CV and his proven ability to deliver silverware quickly, even if he tends to burn the house down shortly afterwards. The feeling at the time was that it was an uncharacteristic Levy hire with the potential for conflict, particularly over transfer business, but it might be worth it to harden the squad’s mentality, to help them to win something. And it was definitely a box-office move.
Mourinho’s tenure followed a familiar course. A charm offensive; initial difficulties giving way to a firm identity; substance over style; momentum created. And then it unravelled. The low-block approach stripped of its justification when results turned; players frustrated with Mourinho’s criticisms and his chopping and changing, not knowing where they stood.
The difference, 물론이야, was that there was no trophy and it is quite the irony – and the reflection of how keen Levy was to jettison Mourinho – that it is now Mason who has the opportunity to win one in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City. The 29-year-old, who only got the job on Monday and is the youngest manager in Premier League history, will be in charge of a senior team for the second time, having overseen Wednesday’s 2-1 home win against Southampton.
At this point, with Mason set to be in the post until the end of the season, it is a stretch to say that he could “do a Solskjær” and go from caretaker to permanent choice at the club for which he previously played. But he feels like an easier fit for Levy and a gentler transition to whichever manager will lead the club in the longer-term.
It is as if Levy has been reminded of what he had with Pochettino – a believer in a project and the development of young players, in front-foot football, who did not necessarily need expensive signings – because he is understood to be seeking the same characteristics in his next appointment.
Alderweireld is extremely careful not to throw any shade on Mourinho. He describes how “everybody was hurt to hear when he wasn’t our manager any more”, how the timing was “the same surprise for us as for everyone else”, that “everyone was fighting and doing the best they can to change things around”.
He adds: “We have to respect his career, we have to respect how good he is. Unfortunately we didn’t get the results together that we wanted. 다시, a lot of respect, even a thank you. Maybe the results didn’t go that way but 100% he made everyone better. For sure, his ways and how he looked about football … you have to respect them.”
Can Alderweireld explain how the team hit a wall after being top of the table in early December? “It’s difficult to put an answer there,” he replies. “I understand people want to know that maybe things are not going in the right direction and in the dressing room but that was not it. 다시, every player gave 100% to change things.”
Alderweireld’s change in tone is marked when he discusses Mason, the shackles off. “It’s going wonderfully,”그는 말한다. “He is a big personality, how he talks. He’s only 29 but he presents himself as very mature. We played with him so we know him. There’s a lot of respect and everyone agrees with how he wants to play football looking forward. He is the boss but you can talk to him and it’s good he sees football this way. It’s not maybe like the old days where: ‘This is the way and that’s it.’ No. It’s a very positive dynamic.”
And so to the final, in which Spurs will attempt to win their first trophy since 2008. “We didn’t get silverware but the steps this club has taken in the last five, six, seven years are big,” the defender says. “Don’t underestimate that even if you get used to it quite quickly.
“We played in the Champions League, not last year but we were there four times in a row before that. You can’t say we weren’t good or say Spurs don’t have winners. You have to win to get in finals. You have to win to get into the top four. That is not silverware but maybe now we are in a moment to get everyone to just shut up and get it.
“City have unbelievable qualities but we have to go with our strengths and not only stop them but try to beat them. That is the mindset that we have to have.”