Glenn Hoddle was the perfect man to speak for an entire Tottenham Hotspur fan base when he said: “They’ve forgotten what to do when they get the ball.”
Now a television pundit, Hoddle remains a legend at Tottenham and the former midfielder was the perfect hero for a set of fans that have always valued style.
But there is little of the kind of entertainment Hoddle used to provide on offer for the Spurs fans watching from their sofas, as Jose Mourinho’s side have retreated further and further into isolation behind their own halfway line over recent weeks.
Mourinho was proud of his ‘untouchables’ at Chelsea, but Tottenham supporters are currently being treated to the ‘unwatchables’, so ugly has their team’s play become.
And it was an inability to keep the ball or even simply get it into the opposition half that prompted Hoddle to make his assessment shortly after Chelsea had taken the lead.
Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg perhaps best embodied how Spurs had played for the opening 32 minutes, when he took the ball 20 yards from his own goal, looked up and saw no movement ahead of him, and passed it straight out of play.
What’s happened to the team that put six goals past Manchester United at Old Trafford? Was Mourinho spooked in the next game, when Spurs conceded three late goals to draw with West Ham United? Certainly, that late collapse seemed to change his team’s mentality.
Mourinho, like all Premier League managers, has bemoaned the absence of fans during the coronavirus pandemic, but he may be fortunate that Tottenham’s followers were not inside the stadium on Thursday night.
For they would simply not have put up with this. Spurs fans are used to not winning silverware or challenging at the top of the table, but they expect to watch a team that plays in what they believe to be the right way. The way Hoddle used to play.
The wait for a trophy could, of course, end this season with Mourinho’s team in the final of the EFL Cup and, yet, that may not be enough to stop the Tottenham supporters turning on the Portuguese if their team remain on the back foot for too much longer.
The fans who were begrudgingly prepared to sacrifice free-flowing easy-on-the-eye football when Mourinho’s team flirted with mounting a title challenge back at the start of December are beginning to wonder what they have signed up for with the Special One.
This performance against Chelsea was so bad that it was also questionable whether or not all of the Spurs players believe in what they are being asked to do.
Heung-Min Son looked like a lost soul without Harry Kane on the pitch with him. Kane would have no doubt played the South Korean in on goal, when Carlos Vinicius held on to the ball too long in the opening 10 minutes.
Vinicius was making his first Premier League start since joining on loan from Benfica and this was not a performance that suggested Tottenham would be able to cope without their star man for any length of time. Mourinho had wanted Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins last summer, and both men would have buried the late chance that Vinicius missed for an undeserved equaliser.
So little threat did Spurs and Vinicius offer that it was hardly noticeable that Chelsea’s most influential central defender, Thiago Silva, had left the pitch with an injury.
It is unlikely Mourinho will be in trouble with Daniel Levy just yet, given the admiration the Tottenham chairman so obviously has for the 58-year-old and with the club booked into a final and still in the Europa League.
But those supporters who are currently having to take their anger out on their cushions will be back in the stadium one day, by which time Mourinho’s team will need to have remembered what to do when they get the ball.