Neil Humphreys: No more dull football please, Mourinho
English Premier League audiences will switch off from Tottenham in the current gloomy climate
For several years now, Jose Mourinho's critics have wondered if the game has moved on without him.
The latest evidence suggests his audience has left him behind, too.
Tottenham Hotspur's dull plod against Everton hinted at a manager's failure to read the room. Such dross wouldn't stand at the best of times. In a global pandemic, it feels unforgivable.
Unique circumstances dictate empty stadiums, fake atmosphere and less intense contests played in sterile bubbles, leaving teams with just one task.
Put on a show. Push players forward. Press frequently. Encourage fullbacks to overlap. Do anything necessary to at least pretend that any of this really matters.
Spurs, like every other English Premier League club now, had only one job to do. Entertain the public. Offer a mildly arresting spectacle for 90-odd minutes as we temporarily parked our fears of second waves and economic Armageddon.
But Mourinho isn't getting the memo. He's still petulantly whining about being misunderstood, like a teen idol struggling with the transition to serious artist.
Spurs' beleaguered manager - yes, Mourinho's natural state of being has been beleaguered since he detonated the Real Madrid dressing room - continues to operate under false pretences. That is that the result actually matters.
For Tottenham supporters, beating Everton on the opening weekend might have added a spring to the step this morning, but only a small one.
Judging by the apoplectic reactions on social media, the non-performance irritates far more than the 1-0 defeat.
Spurs' set-up has no place in today's search for anything vaguely optimistic, bright and hopeful. Everton tried to be all those things. Tottenham were none of them.
Mourinho highlighted the logistical headaches of Covid-19 testing, the recent Nations League fixtures and a lack of fitness, using his old Jedi mind trick to convince us that problems shared with every EPL club are just his alone.
But his archaic antics rarely work any more. Like Tottenham's innate caution inside their own stadium, his comments were tiresome and self-defeating.
Spurs' habit of falling back whenever Everton regained possession came from the training ground. That's on him.
Their transfer market struggles and Giovani Lo Celso's injury had little bearing on Mourinho's decision to play two holding midfielders or the reluctance of any white shirts to venture forward, apart from Son Heung-min.
Tottenham's midfielders were so timid in attack that they allowed Everton's Allan to essentially annex north London in his first game.
Mourinho opted to play safe against a transitional side that finished six places and 10 points below Spurs last season.
His misreading of the public mood, Tottenham's support base and the club's tradition of attacking football seems unintentionally comical.
Spurs are at risk of turning into a Jose Mourinho tribute act, where only one player out of 11 is granted licence to attack (Son) and the finest centre forward in the country (Harry Kane) rarely touches the ball in the opponents' box.
Just to thoroughly underscore the irony, the most Spurs-like player on show was James Rodriguez, who enjoyed Carlo Ancelotti's complete trust and the freedom of the right flank to roam where he pleased.
The Colombian was the kind of maverick that the old White Hart Lane once happily indulged. Now, a similarly mercurial performer might be accused of being "lazy" or having "a wrong state of mind".
Mourinho said as much of his own players, deflecting like a politician to avoid answering the most obvious question of all: why do talented footballers no longer improve and often regress under Mourinho?
While it's true that a team's potential cannot be accurately assessed in one game, this wasn't one game. The Mourinho malaise has spluttered on for years now, from one season to another, as one of the greatest managers of his generation pursues a glorious epilogue.
But the emperor has no new clothes. It's the same line-up, style and design as before. Keep six men behind the ball, rising to nine when necessary, and wait for Son to shine on a rare counter-attack. Rinse and repeat until either the opposition yield or the watching audience succumbs to boredom.
The drab, familiar routine no longer appeals. The EPL is supposed to be an escape from the drab, familiar routine of our existence.
Mourinho's dour, defensive caution feels too monochrome in a world that desperately needs a splash of colour.
As long as we all have plenty to legitimately moan about, there will be little tolerance for a serial moaner and his miserable football.