Tottenham Hotspur boss Jose Mourinho has been slated by Optus Sport pundit Michael Owen for regularly taking Tanguy Ndombele off in the second half of games, as he did in Spurs’ draw with Fulham on Wednesday night.
The former England striker believes that swapping Ndombele with “another sitting midfielder” sends out a “subliminal message” to Tottenham’s players, namely that they need to defend rather than go for another goal.
This can backfire, as was the case at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday, when once again, Spurs took a one-goal lead, only to relinquish it later on in the game amid little attacking intent and poor finishing.
After the Fulham match, the Spurs boss lamented Tottenham’s luck, and while he was not best pleased with the manner of the visitors’ equaliser either, he spoke about “ambition” when claiming his players lack that instinct to “kill a game”.
However, fellow Optus pundit – and Spurs icon – Glenn Hoddle said Tottenham’s players are caught in two minds once they take a lead, while Owen pointed the finger directly at the manager for a problem which is happening far too frequently.
“I think it is the manager,” Owen said. “When the manager after 55, 60 minutes… look how many times Ndombele gets brought off after the hour. It is virtually every game. Today he lasted 70 minutes and Glenn and I were astonished.
“All the time, Jose Mourinho will go 1-0 up, bring his attacking midfielder off and bring another sitting midfielder on. If you keep doing that, it sends a subliminal message to a player that we’re defending, we’re not thinking about the second goal.
“That seed plants in your mind, time after time after time. I think they have to free themselves of that.”
Wednesday night was the third time in the space of a month that Spurs dropped points after taking a one-goal lead into the break – six points which would have the North Londoners joint-top of the table at this stage.
Admittedly, Ndombele wasn’t replaced by a “sitting midfielder” against the Cottagers, with striker Carlos Vinicius coming on in his place, but it could be argued that Moussa Sissoko should’ve come off as it then left Spurs with no creativity in midfield.