Mourinho gets his wish as Spurs find second-half solution

By Patric Ridge 18 January 2021 15
Mourinho gets his wish as Spurs find second-half solution

For 172 seconds on Sunday, it appeared that Tottenham's second-half frustrations could be set to continue.

Serge Aurier and Harry Kane had put Jose Mourinho's team in complete control at Bramall Lane – where Spurs lost 3-1 last season – but David McGoldrick's header in the 59th minute hauled one back for lowly Sheffield United, hunting just their second Premier League win of the season.

Spurs have dropped 10 points from winning positions this season, and Mourinho has previously cited a lack of "desire" and "ambition" after the interval as reasons for his side failing to hold onto results against Fulham last time out and Wolves on December 27.

However, within three minutes of McGoldrick giving the Blades hope, Spurs struck back.

Steven Bergwijn prodded a ball in behind the hosts' defence, and the industrious Tanguy Ndombele turned on the style to lob a sublime finish over the hapless Aaron Ramsdale and all but seal the points.

Mourinho, asked before the game if his team sat back and invited pressure in the second half of matches, told Sky Sports: "My reaction is to say that is completely true.

"What is not true is that in the second half, we do what I ask the players to do. It's true that we have lots of chances to win matches in the first half, we are not scoring enough goals in relation to what we do and then in second halves opponents dominate us and it looks like we are accepting that dominance, and we pay the price for mistakes we make defensively.

"I agree totally, but that is not what we want to do. What am I telling them at half-time? Play attacking football, be dominant, do not accept dominance [from the opponents]."

Across their 17 league games prior to Sunday's clash, Spurs had scored just 11 of their 30 goals in the second half.

However, despite Mourinho's claims, it had not been for a lack of trying. Their tally of 103 shots in the second period of matches was 10 more than they had accumulated in the first half of games.

Of their attempts, 40 had been on target, at an average of 2.35 per game, with 38 off target and a further 25 blocked.

Spurs had, on average, played 11.7 passes per match into the penalty area after the break in their opening 17 games, creating 76 chances in total, with 17 of these opportunities counting as 'big chances', according to Opta.

Once again, these numbers are close to their first-half equivalents – some higher, some lower – but there was no doubting Spurs seemed to have hit a mental block when it came to seeing out leads.

Perhaps aided by a lack of cutting edge from a blunt Blades team, Tottenham managed to overcome that hurdle.

They only managed two attempts on target in the second half – slightly below average – but unlike Son Heung-min against Fulham last time out, Ndombele took his chance.

Their second-half passing accuracy was also up on the early-season average of 78.49 per cent, with Spurs completing 83.4 per cent of their passes after the interval at Bramall Lane.

A duel success rate of 57.4 per cent after the break was also higher than their 17-game match average (47.21), suggesting Spurs were more aggressive in their individual battles – a statistic which will satisfy Mourinho's clamour for "dominance".

Spurs fed on their opponents' weaknesses on Sunday, and though they ultimately managed only 14 attempts compared to United's 15, they displayed the clinical nature which had fans dreaming of a title challenge earlier in the campaign.

With the top of the table so congested, Mourinho's men cannot be discounted if they have finally found a way to rediscover a much-needed ruthless streak, though they must now ensure it is not another false dawn.

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Patric Ridge

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