Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho praised his team’s attitude after a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday but questioned why it had taken two dreadful performances to galvanise them into action.
Last Sunday’s feeble performance in a north-London derby defeat by Arsenal was followed by a lamentable 3-0 capitulation away to Dinamo Zagreb to crash out of the Europa League.
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But goals by Carlos Vinicius and Harry Kane earned a win at Villa that put Tottenham up into sixth spot in the Premier League, just three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
“Okay I am really happy with [the response], but it is sad we need such a bad defeat to have this kind of reaction,” Mourinho, who accused his team of not respecting their jobs after defeat by Dinamo, said.
“This should not be a reaction, this should be a permanent state of mind, permanent soul in the team, I think that is our next challenge — to have this standard in terms of effort, commitment, sacrifice.
Mourinho, who said he had “opened his heart more than in 20 years” after the midweek defeat made seven changes to the side that started in Zagreb, bringing in the likes of young Welsh centre-back Joe Rodon and Japhet Tanganga while Vinicius was given only his second Premier League start.
Tottenham survived a rocky spell in the first half but after Vinicius tapped in the opener in the 29th minute the visitors grew in confidence with Kane adding a second-half penalty.
“I felt the team needed a different spirit, humble, honest, simple people like Japhet, Rodon, Vinicius, the two 16-year-olds on the bench are living the dream,” he said.
“It is a big three points, now the guys disappear and come back two or three days before the next match and let’s pray and hope they come back in good conditions.”
Kane said the team had been “embarrassed” by the events in Zagreb and called on them to now push for the top four.
“The last couple of games we dropped below our standards. It was nice to get it back today — everyone fighting, putting their bodies on the line,” he said.
“That’s what we need to do for the rest of the season to give the top four a push.”
Villa manager Dean Smith said his side lacked quality in the final third and hoped that Jack Grealish’s return after the international break would spark his side back into life.
“We can’t [just] wait for Jack to come back. The players there, it’s their opportunity. Not too many have taken it,” he said of Villa’s slump since their captain got injured.