It is a year to the day since Jose took over at Tottenham… now can he deliver the title?

One year has passed since Jose Mourinho appeared in north London talking about his Tottenham pyjamas and the quality of the bedding in the residential lodge at the training ground.

Spurs purists, ever daring to do, feared he was about to send them to sleep with his risk-free football as he promised to help them dream about challenging for the title.

After grinding out a victory at West Bromwich Albion on their last outing, Mourinho’s team briefly touched the Premier League summit.

Tottenham celebrate Harry Kane's late winner against West Brom last time out

Tottenham celebrate Harry Kane’s late winner against West Brom last time out

Not always fluent and yet determined to resist when under pressure, they fought, scrapped, focused on the prize and Harry Kane conjured up a late winner.

Leicester overtook them, but they approach the one year anniversary in second, shaping up like a classic Mourinho war machine.

Spirited, more durable. Bigger, physically.

Spurs had been trailing Max Aarons for some time but Mourinho arrived and decided the young Norwich full-back was too similar in stature and style to Serge Aurier.

Tottenham signed Matt Doherty from Wolves instead. Doherty is one of nine signings made in the last 12 months. Not all of them are from the land of giants. Sergio Reguilon is not much bigger than Aarons, although as a collective they provide more combative options.

One of the most revealing clips from the All Or Nothing series screened in August and September was Mourinho discussing Eric Dier, the only one who ‘likes living the conflict’.

Jose Mourinho is unveiled as Tottenham manager on November 20, 2019

Jose Mourinho is unveiled as Tottenham manager on November 20, 2019

MOURINHO’S NINE SPURS SIGNINGS 

Gedson Fernandes, Benfica, loan* 

Steven Bergwijn, PSV, £27m

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Southampton, £15m

Joe Hart, Burnley, free

Matt Doherty, Wolves, £13m

Sergio Reguilon, Real Madrid, £25m

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid, loan

Carlos Vinicius, Benfica, loan*

Joe Rodon, Swansea, £11m

TOTAL: £91m

*with option to buy 

Dier, warrior-in-chief, has thrived in central defence. Back to his best. Back in the England team after a torturous couple of years.

He wanted another experienced centre-half but Mourinho has armour plated and organised at the back, the department he was most concerned about when he first replaced Mauricio Pochettino.

In Ben Davies and Doherty, he has full-backs who compete and are decent in the air, and can shield his back-four with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Moussa Sissoko.

Tanguy Ndombele has started to fire, another vital physical presence.

Up front, Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius, for all their qualities on the ball, also add power to the precision of Kane and the electric pace of Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura.

Those to leave include Christian Eriksen, Kyle Walker-Peters. Out on loan, Ryan Sessegnon, Juan Foyth, Troy Parrott, Oliver Skipp. Frozen out, Danny Rose. Marginalised, Dele Alli.

As well as upgrading on size, Mourinho has recruited know-how when it comes to delivering success. Bale with his glittering medal collection, Hojbjerg with his schooling at Bayern Munich, Reguilon from Real Madrid and a Europa League winner with Sevilla. 

Dele Alli has been marginalised by Mourinho this season and often left out of matchday squads

Dele Alli has been marginalised by Mourinho this season and often left out of matchday squads

Steven Bergwijn, a champion from PSV, and Doherty, key to the rise of Wolves. There is Joe Hart, another chest-beater, who has usurped Paolo Gazzaniga as deputy to Hugo Lloris, a champion at Manchester City.

Mourinho has been backed by chairman Daniel Levy in the market despite the financial uncertainty. They seem to be getting along well. After his fractious tenure at Manchester United, the 57-year-old Portuguese has rediscovered some charm.

Spurs, meanwhile, have enjoyed his global profile and pulling power. Hojbjerg was not short of offers when leaving Southampton. Ajax, Monaco and Bayern were all interested.

Everton delivered a more attractive financial package for both him and his agent, but his mind was said to have been made up on the first day he spoke to Tottenham’s head coach.

Hojbjerg has become integral to the post-Poch rebuild. The Dane is popular and keen to shoulder responsibility.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is proving an important acquisition to add bite in central midfield

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is proving an important acquisition to add bite in central midfield

He has technical quality and, perhaps more importantly, bite, tenacity, turns over possession and has the cynical edge Mourinho thought was missing, the instinct to kill the counter-attack by fair means or foul.

The progress has delighted Levy. Just as importantly, it has assuaged Kane’s restlessness. Some of European football’s traditional big spenders have been jolted by the pandemic and the England captain is encouraged by the change at Spurs, and a little less prone to wonder about moving on in the quest for trophies.

Mourinho will always protect and support those who embrace his demands. We saw it with John Terry and Frank Lampard at Chelsea. With Scott McTominay at Manchester United. We are seeing it again with Dier and Kane.

Not everyone, of course, will feel so warmly. There has been no way back for Rose since daring to question the boss in January. Alli has barely featured with little by the way of an explanation and his future looks to be elsewhere. Harry Winks has been dislodged Hojbjerg.

Mourinho smiles as he oversees Tottenham training in north London earlier this month

Mourinho smiles as he oversees Tottenham training in north London earlier this month

NEXT 6 PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURES 

Manchester City (H), November 21

Chelsea (A), November 29

Arsenal (H), December 5

Crystal Palace (A), December 12

Liverpool (A), December 16

Leicester (H), December 19

Mourinho is settling on his preferred team and the homegrown identity forged to great acclaim under Pochettino is diminishing. Flair and adventure are not top of the priority list.

Nice as those things are, Levy’s Tottenham project has reached a stage where the importance of winning eclipses everything else.

Mourinho has got them winning. His first year, in the strangest of circumstances with a lockdown and no fans, will go down as a success. ‘We can’t win the Premier League this season,’ he said, when took over in 14th place. ‘Next season, I’m not saying we will win it, but we can win it.’

It will be the first time in 60 years if they do. They are a point from the top and alive in all competitions. Change is tangible and now comes the true test with Manchester City on Saturday followed by Premier League fixtures against Chelsea, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Leicester.

By Christmas, there will be a clearer picture about Jose’s Spurs. Will they dream on or drift off?

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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