Jose Mourinho used all his craft in making the decision to give Japhet Tanganga his full senior Premier League début for Tottenham against the league’s best side.
Some said it was a baptism of fire, a statement dripped in truth.
But it was a baptism of fire completely devoid of risk. Mourinho said he selected him for his explosive speed, an understandable tactic. Considering the formidable attack Liverpool possesses, many would say Mourinho set Tanganga up to fail.
But Mourinho has been around for far too long to make such a naïve, amateurish decision without extensive due cause. Nobody expected Tottenham to take anything from yesterday’s contest. And therein lies Mourinho’s free pass. If Tanganga excelled and thrived in his début, Mourinho is to thank. And if the 20-year-old failed miserably, well, it wouldn’t have really mattered as few believed Spurs would leave this match with anything.
It was one of those rare win-win situations, for both the player and coach. Had he faltered terrifically, Tanganga would have been able to recover quickly considering the monstrous, unenviable job he was tasked with.
If he enjoyed a dream début, his confidence would have soared, giving him the platform to ascend in future contests. So Mourinho used all of his experience and savvy in selecting the youth to play against arguably the world’s best attacking triumvirate. Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino can unnerve even the most well seasoned professional.
In all honesty Tanganga, barring a magical moment from Firmino, made an excellent account of himself. He bossed Mane and displayed the speed and athleticism he’s been touted for. And Mourinho knew precisely what he was doing when selecting him.
It was the most benign baptism of fire you’ll see. And starting him was a testament to Mourinho’s cunningness, showing the veteran Portuguese manager hasn’t yet lost his astute tactical brilliance.