PETER CROUCH: Jose Mourinho’s mojo is back but now he needs to win the FA Cup… while Jurgen Klopp’s young side taught me a lesson
- Tottenham have tricky fixtures with a trip to Aston Villa and they face RB Leipzig
- The pace doesn’t slacken, with a collision with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
- None of those fixtures are as important as the one against Norwich in the FA Cup
- Tottenham got a tremendous boost last Sunday, with an unexpected win
Tottenham are four points off fourth place. They do not have a game this weekend but when their season resumes, the big games come thick and fast.
First there is a trip to Aston Villa, followed by the resumption of the Champions League when RB Leipzig come to London. The pace doesn’t slacken, with a collision with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge four days later before a clash at home to Wolves.
None of those fixtures, however, are as important as the one on Wednesday, March 4 – Norwich, at home, in the FA Cup fifth round. I keep hearing it said that Tottenham’s priority for the campaign is getting back into the Champions League, but I don’t see it that way.
Tottenham’s turnaround against Southampton was an important moment for Jose Mourinho
Tottenham got a tremendous boost last Sunday, with an unexpected win against Manchester City, but I don’t think it will make a difference to the outcome of their Premier League campaign.
I believe Leicester and Chelsea will finish in the top four and there will be little my old team can do about it.
What would make this campaign memorable, however, is a piece of silverware and something made me feel the FA Cup was an achievable target on Wednesday, when Tottenham came from behind to knock out Southampton.
A few months ago, going 2-1 behind with 19 minutes to play would have led to Tottenham capsizing. This time, however, it felt different and the way they turned the situation around could prove to be the most important moment in the early days of Jose Mourinho’s reign.
Son Heung-min scored an 88th-minute penalty to seal Tottenham’s place in the fifth round
Some people tried to build the 2-0 win over Manchester City as a ‘Mourinho Masterclass’ but it was nothing of the sort. Tottenham were second best in that game but took their chances and pounced when an opening, in the form of Oleksander Zinchencko’s red card, arrived. The result certainly gave the players confidence but there was one snapshot during the match that led me to think that the Mourinho we are seeing now is back to his old self.
I’m sure you have seen the clip of him howling with laughter one second then leaping out of his seat to remonstrate with the fourth official the next. That is Mourinho in a nutshell, all theatrics and combat. I know he is not to everyone’s taste, but I believe he has rediscovered his mojo.
When Mourinho was appointed, I wrote here about his unveiling press conference and how it looked like he had a glint in his eye. Things have not gone smoothly since he replaced Mauricio Pochettino, with injuries and transfer sagas, but it struck me in the City game that he was so full of life.
Danny Ings sent Southampton into the lead for the first time in the match on Wednesday
Think about the man you saw at Manchester United. When did he ever do something that was so off the cuff to get you talking? He looked weary at Old Trafford, almost from the start, but that did not stop him winning two of the club’s three trophies since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Mourinho wins things. There might still be some Tottenham fans who are uncomfortable cheering for him, so soon after the departure of the man who was universally adored, but what will those fans think if he gives them a big day out in May?
I’ve had enough of saying that Tottenham play great football, that they develop players and they are a team to be enjoyed.
I want to see Tottenham win a trophy. I want the supporters to have lasting memories and there is no one better at providing an instant fix than Mourinho.
The points squandered at that start of the season are going to cost them a place in the top four – but how different will things look if Tottenham are running around Wembley with the FA Cup on May 23?
They need to go for it against Norwich. This team needs to win a trophy.
Klopp’s Cup kids taught me a lesson
It turns out it was a fuss over nothing. Those who felt Liverpool had been disrespectful in the FA Cup – myself included – learned a lesson on Tuesday.
Watching the young team who were given the responsibility of beating Shrewsbury book their place in the next round was a huge buzz.
I can understand why Shrewsbury will feel that it was a missed opportunity but there is nothing like the emergence of youth to provide excitement.
That is exactly what young men such as Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Harvey Elliott provided at Anfield. I felt Klopp should have been on the touchline but the way they made light work of their opponents showed he wasn’t missed.
Curtis Jones is on the radar of England’s Under 21s after a string of impressive performances
The thing I liked most about the replay was seeing how the kids dealt with different challenges.
Let’s face it, they are going to struggle to get opportunities in the Premier League or the Champions League at the moment, so where else are they going to be tested to see if they are up to Liverpool’s standards?
Jones showed real leadership qualities. Williams was terrific once again and could end up being Trent Alexander-Arnold’s understudy. There were others, too, such as the young left back Adam Lewis, who I know Steven Gerrard rates highly.
There has been a song and dance made about Liverpool’s attitude to the FA Cup but which one of those kids would change it? Whether they play at Chelsea in the fifth round remains to be seen.
What we do know is the experience they have received over the course of this season has been invaluable.
Harvey Elliott is also in line for a call up amid Liverpool’s run to the FA Cup fifth-round
My final word
Regular readers will know how much I love Barcelona. I once took Abbey there, many years ago, for a romantic weekend that turned into a scouting trip to watch Ronaldinho at the Nou Camp. She was absolutely delighted, I’m sure you can imagine.
My intention is to return one day to see Lionel Messi playing live again and for all the talk of him moving to the Premier League this week, I don’t for one minute think that is realistic. Messi was made for Barcelona and Barcelona was made for him.
It would be wonderful if he came to the Premier League – his arrival here would be the greatest signing of this era – but for all the turmoil that they are experiencing, there is only one place for him to play football. Seeing him in anything but Barcelona’s famous colours just wouldn’t be right.
Lionel Messi has been linked with a shock move away following a public row with Eric Abidal
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