Jose Mourinho fired a telling warning to his Tottenham stars after their loss to Royal Antwerp by stating his “future choices are going to be very easy” having dragged four players off at half-time.
Spurs fell to a shock 1-0 defeat in Belgium courtesy of Lior Refaelov’s 29th minute goal, which prompted Mourinho to take drastic action at the break.
Dele Alli – making his first start since the end of September – was among those to be hauled off, along with Carlos Vinicius, Steven Bergwijn and Giovani Lo Celso.
Mourinho threw on the cavalry in their place, including Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura, but it failed to spark a revival leaving the Spurs boss furious at the final whistle.
“I would like to make 11 (changes at half-time),” Mourinho fumed. “I didn’t make five because I was afraid of a long 45 minutes.”
Gareth Bale soon became the fifth and final casualty as Mourinho turned to Harry Kane before the hour mark, but to no avail.
Speaking after the game, Mourinho refused to point the finger at individuals though, taking full responsibility for the defeat.
“There is only one to blame, I chose the players to start.”
His words will serve as a concern to outcast midfielder Alli though, whose Tottenham career is already hanging in the balance.
Mourinho added: “Tonight my future choices are going to be very easy. It is my responsibility.”
Asked whether he was referring to Alli specifically, Mourinho declined to comment, but it’s hard not to feel the England ace is now on borrowed time at Spurs.
Later his boss blasted: “Before matches you always ask me why this player is not playing, why this player is not playing, why this player is not selected. Maybe now for a few weeks you don’t ask me that because you have the answer.”
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It wasn’t just Alli who failed to show up for the Europa League clash, as Spurs – who had made nine changes from Monday’s win over Burnley – failed to create many significant chances after their poor first-half display.
They had fallen behind after Ben Davies was caught in possession by Dieumerci Mbokani, who raced away, before teeing up Refaelov to fire home in clinical fashion.
Indeed even when Spurs had Son and Kane leading the attack, it was the hosts who had the best of the chances, with Mourinho’s men struggling to muster anything worthy of note late on.
Putting his team’s performance into blunt perspective, Mourinho concluded: “We got what we deserved. We let them win, I can say that.”