The Portuguese coach has had a difficult start in charge of the club and is no doubt eager to make changes. Sadly, the impact of the coronavirus means wholesale changes won’t be possible.
Instead, he will need to work with the players at his disposal and finding a solution at the heart of defence is a pressing concern for Mourinho. Jan Vertonghen is set to leave the club on a free transfer, which leaves Mourinho with four first-team centre-backs, but which would represent the best potential partnership?
We looked at the stats prior to Monday night’s game with Everton.
Toby Alderweireld & Davinson Sanchez
By far the most pedigreed and logical set-up for Tottenham, it remains to be seen if Mourinho will use this pairing in the remaining games.
While Sanchez is a strong defender with a physical presence, he still has some unrefined edges and is prone to poor decision-making. This is where a partner like Alderweireld could be beneficial, sweeping up behind him and coaching him through games as a partnership.
Sanchez’s passing accuracy this season is 93% (source: Twenty3 sport), and that is significantly higher than both Alderweireld (85%) and Eric Dier (84%). Sanchez tends to play more conservative passes, and a partnership with the Belgian would allow Alderweireld to take the lead and build play from the back.
If Mourinho can coach the duo to operate in tandem, (with Sanchez operating as the covering centre-back), it could start the foundations of a strong back-line for Spurs. The Belgian commits fewer fouls per 90 minutes and manages more interceptions, all while having a better win percentage in his defensive duels.
Eric Dier & Davinson Sanchez
The theory behind this partnership seems sound.
Sanchez has the recovery speed to tuck in behind Eric Dier, while both players excel in the physical 1v1 battle. Unfortunately, that success hasn’t played out on the pitch with only one clean sheet since football returned.
The duo were particularly poor against Sheffield United. It would be harsh to blame either man for the Blades opening goal, but the lack of communication was a significant factor behind their second. In particular, Dier allowed Lys Mousset to drift in behind him, while both men failed to mark Oli McBurnie for the third.
The lack of understanding and communication between the pair is a concern and does not bode well for their immediate future.
There is a possibility that the issue can be rectified by work on the training ground and more playing time, but it’s up for debate whether Mourinho is willing or able to be so patient.
Juan Foyth & Toby Alderweireld
While this might feel left-field given the Argentine has barely played this season for Spurs, Foyth could be an interesting option for Mourinho.
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A signing by Mauricio Pochettino, his willingness to advance with the ball is a key part of his game. It could offer Mourinho a greater ability to build the play from deeper positions, specifically when playing at home against teams that bunker in.
Alderweireld has that same quality to his game, but he is also blessed with the experience to help. Although Foyth’s exposure to the first team has been brief this season, 92 minutes across four games, but he has attempted 2.93 dribbles per 90 minutes for Spurs this season. He has also attempted more defensive actions and completed more forward passes than Alderweireld, Eric Dier, and Davinson Sanchez.
Foyth has been a pariah since Mourinho arrived, but if the Portuguese can show some faith in the defender, he may be rewarded with a strong, ball-playing centre-back partnership.