Can Ryan Mason spur Tottenham to top-four finish? 5 issues facing interim boss

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Ryan Mason has been appointed as Tottenham interim head coach once again following the dismissal of Cristian Stellini after less than a month in charge.

After stepping into the top job on a temporary basis from his backroom role when Antonio Conte was sacked, Stellini lasted just four games before he was dismissed in the wake of Sunday’s 6-1 defeat at Newcastle.

Mason will take charge of the first team for a second spell, having overseen the squad following the departure of Jose Mourinho in April 2021 until the end of that campaign.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the problems which Spurs have to overcome as they try to salvage a Champions League spot from their final six games of the season.

Case for the defence

Tottenham’s Ivan Perisic (right)
Ivan Perisic, right, was deployed at full-back against Newcastle (Owen Humphreys/PA)

While injuries to key defensive personnel played their part, deploying Ivan Perisic and Pedro Porro as full-backs was a decision which came under the spotlight.

Mason’s first game in charge will be at home to Manchester United on Thursday night, when he could opt for a three-man backline, which helped Spurs regroup and concede just once in the second half, but the damage was already done.

Forster on stand-by

Tottenham goalkeeper Fraser Forster
Tottenham goalkeeper Fraser Forster could be set for another run in the side (Isaac Parkin/PA)

While Lloris could not be directly blamed for the goals conceded, the Frenchman went off at half-time with a muscle problem which could see him set for another spell on the sidelines.

Fraser Forster proved an able deputy for Lloris earlier in the campaign and should Mason be deprived of the French goalkeeper for a key run of fixtures, the veteran former Southampton stopper will offer a safe pair of hands to help steady the ship.

Richarlison at the ready

Brazil forward Richarlison is another member of the Spurs squad who has been hampered by fitness problems.

After recovering from a calf injury suffered before the last international break, Richarlison has made a couple of late substitute appearances.

Dejan Kulusevski could be the man to make way for Richarlison to start against Manchester United as Mason looks to breathe some new life into Spurs’ frontline.

Reconnect with the fans

Ryan Mason (right) at Goodison Park
Ryan Mason, right, had a stint as Spurs caretaker boss towards the end of the 2020-21 season (Nigel French/PA)

The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust called for decisive action to “give us all some hope and something to get behind at the end of a truly awful season”.

Whether or not the swift departure of Stellini and the rest of his support staff will provide that, putting faith in Mason once again at least restores a connection back to ‘one of their own’ in the dugout.

Ignore the outside noise

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has seen his own position come under scrutiny following another disappointing campaign (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mason’s previous caretaker stint showed he can be his own man, helping Spurs finish seventh at the end of the season, one point above rivals Arsenal, and in doing so securing qualification for the Europa Conference League.

While the debate continues over the future direction of the club under chairman Daniel Levy and whether or not England captain Harry Kane will still be there next season, Mason just has to cut out all of the background noise and focus on producing the required results across their six remaining games – which also include trips to Liverpool and Aston Villa, who both still have their own European ambitions.

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