Guardian writers’ predicted position: 6th (NB: this is not necessarily David Hytner’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)
Last season’s position: 6th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 50-1
José Mourinho could not wait for last season to end. He said so. The Tottenham manager took over from Mauricio Pochettino in mid-November with the team 11 points off fourth place in the Premier League and it was always likely to be too big a gap to close. He said this on numerous occasions.
What Mourinho wanted was a full pre-season with his players and a clean slate in the table, with everybody starting on the same level. Then, and only then, would it be possible to reach a meaningful judgment on him and his team at the end of a campaign.
Mourinho has had his wish and now, it feels as though his Spurs tenure is truly about to begin.
Mourinho has the habit of subverting reference points, of reframing them to bolster his achievements and ego. And so we had the José Treble of Community Shield, EFL Cup and Europa League with Manchester United in 2016-17; the memory of him getting his players to hold up three fingers after the final trophy had been secured retains its audacity. The José League Table of 2019-20 was not dissimilar.
According to the statistics, which Mourinho was only too happy to acknowledge, his team would have finished fourth if the season had started when he was appointed. Mourinho’s league record showed 13 wins and six draws from 26 games; pretty solid and, if he could sustain such form over a proper season and come in fourth, it would see the chairman, Daniel Levy, fall for him even harder – if that were possible.
But Mourinho is likely to need more than Champions League qualification to be considered a real success. He needs to win a trophy. This is why Levy hired him. Because he wins. And how Spurs crave silverware, having won only one FA Cup and two League Cups in the past 35 years.
It is reductive and unfair to say Pochettino failed because he did not deliver a trophy in his five full seasons. But with Mourinho, it does feel more black and white, mainly because of who he is, what he has previously done and how he goes about his work.
There has been no serious talk of a project under Mourinho at Spurs. Nobody expects him to be around for many years, to nurture and develop young players and, if last season is any guide, the style of play is not going to thrill. It was and is likely to remain aggressive, direct and pragmatic.
Mourinho only cares about finding the formula for winning football and doing so quickly. Everything is about the here and now. Consider his early transfer window business. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Joe Hart and Matt Doherty have spent years in English football and they are ready to hit the ground running.
Under Pochettino, the club might have tried to bring in Max Aarons at right-back, the promising 20-year-old at Norwich. Doherty is a Mourinho signing – 28 years…