Jose Mourinho will gather his squad at Tottenham’s Enfield Training Centre on Friday asking himself a headache-inducing question: Is my second string team actually better than my first string right now?
Mourinho made nine changes for Spurs’ Europa League round of 32, second-leg clash against Wolfsberger, with only centre back Eric Dier and forward Erik Lamela keeping their place in the starting XI.
The result was another comprehensive win for the Tottenham B team, who thumped in four goals and kept a clean sheet against the Austrian side.
That clean sheet was something the first-choice XI have only managed once in their last eight outings while Spurs haven’t scored four in a single Premier League game since September 2020, when they put five past Southampton.
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In fact, this Spurs B team has eight goals in its last two games – the same that the Spurs A team has managed in their previous eight Premier League games.
Two players in particular have been central to those results, despite being overlooked and seemingly cast out by Mourinho so far this season.
Dele Alli’s fall from grace has been emphatic, with Mourinho unwilling to either play him in the league or sell him to former boss Mauricio Pochettino, while Gareth Bale, who Jose has been nagging chief executives to sign for him for six years, has only started two Premier League games all season.
Yet the only bright sparks for Spurs this year have come through them, and the rest of the Europa League side, as the first XI has slumped down the table to ninth, 23 points off leaders Manchester City and nine points off fourth-placed West Ham.
They’re out of the title picture and all but out of the race for a Champions League spot for next season. They’re also out of the FA Cup.
They are in the League Cup final against Manchester City, a run which primarily consisted of outcasts from the Premier League team until the semi-finals.
These second string players are the ones responsible for Spurs still being in with a chance of winning a trophy and, ironically, easing the pressure on the man blocking them from playing more regularly.
But now could be the time to make the most of the squad.
Alli, who scored a magnificent overhead kick, set up two more and was the star of the night, and Bale, who has taken every chance he has been given in the lesser competitions, should be top of that list.
There is also Carlos Vinicius, who scored two goals on Thursday morning (AEDT), also knocking on the manager’s door for more Premier League minutes than the 160 he has so far been granted.
“The goal I don’t need to speak, because everyone watched it and I believe that all around the world on all these sports TV, people are going to watch it, no need to talk about it,” Mourinho said of Alli.
“But for me the globality of the performance is what matters. He played very well in every aspect of the game.
“Of course he’s not fresh, of course you can feel that his performance like in the first leg from minute 55-60 is going to go down, which is normal due to the circumstances – injured, not training for a long time.
“But in this moment when we are going to play every three days, 10 matches in March, to have Dele back at this level is amazing.”
Bale started this morning’s game on the bench before coming on with Son Heung-min to score, suggesting that he will be first in line for a Premier League chance with Burnley next before three London derbies concluding with the big one against Arsenal in a run of four game in 15 days.
Alli may have to wait a little longer but with both men harbouring high hope for the European Championships in June for England and Wales, Mourinho could find himself the big winner in this after all.