With the camouflage of Harry Kane’s mesmeric presence no longer there to shield him, Jose Mourinho, who turned 58 last week, suddenly looks time-worn and weary and possibly on his last legs in north London.
Tottenham’s woeful 1-0 loss to struggling Brighton exposed a deep disconnect between the Portuguese and his players, and after 13 months of Mourinho’s machinations chairman Daniel Levy is looming, scythe-in-hand, to very possibly cut short an experiment which had its detractors from the start, in light of Mourinho’s divisive and polarising past.
The untimely ankle injury suffered by Kane - the foundation stone Mourinho has built his risk-averse strategy around - has hastened the decline of both team and coach, and exposed a structure in need of re-excavation and renovation.
Yet when you’re part of the problem, as Mourinho clearly is, it’s hard to fathom how an arcane tactician wedded to a paradigm of pragmatism can easily re-adapt, reset, and get the best from a team which led the Premier League in December but now look like strangers hardly willing to play for each other, let alone their manager.
If Mourinho thought Gareth Bale might be the antidote to Kane’s likely lengthy absence - in fairness how could he be? - then the Welshman’s abject 60 minutes on the south coast were instructive of a player making only his second league start since his trumpeted ‘homecoming’ on loan from Real Madrid.
Whilst Bale appears but a hologram of the whirlwind who once had Spurs fans in the palm of his hand, Mourinho bears some of the blame for his over-reliance on Kane and Son Heung-Min and refusal to provide Bale a platform on which to get up to speed again.
Without the England captain, Spurs produced one of their most vapid and soulless performances in many years at the Amex Stadium on Monday (AEDT) to drop six points off the the top four.
Under Mourinho, they appear light years away from where they need to be - a team seemingly without a plan, a collective vision or any sense of harmony or symmetry.
Such is Mourinho’s fall from grace, he’s been likened to a “Portuguese Sam Allardyce” by some Spurs fans on social media in the most withering of appraisals.
Spurs finished with five forwards on the field - Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela, Steven Bergwijn and Son against the Seagulls - but could have deployed five defenders up top for all the difference it made.
Aside from the Bale fiasco, for that’s what it surely is, Mourinho’s handling of Dele Alli, once a free-scoring free spirit who embodied the adventure of the Mauricio Pochettino era, is at best bewildering.
How the England international isn’t good enough to even make matchday squads under Mourinho’s watch begs credulity and is a study in how to mishandle an undeniable talent, who has been granted just 75 minutes so far this season.
Mourinho is said to be happy for Alli to reunite with Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain, whilst Levy is reluctant to sanction a move.
There’s then the bust-up between Mourinho and defender Serge Aurier after his half-time substitution in last week’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool.
The Ivory Coast international departed the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after being replaced and wasn’t in the squad for the Brighton debacle - just another in Mourinho’s playbook of fallouts with players (rewind to Paul Pogba at Manchester United).
Amidst all this, Mourinho has achieved an unenviable double: turning a club renowned for garnishing under-achievement with a refreshing abandon to their play, into a team which still specialises in failing to deliver on promise and investment, only this time doing so with a brand of football so gloom-laden and bleak it’s anathema to everything the cockerel on the Spurs shirt stands for.
Spurs face Chelsea - the club which once flourished under but finally fell out of love with Mourinho - on Friday (AEDT).
The Blues ruthlessly dispensed with favourite son Frank Lampard last week... how much longer Mourinho has left in his current place of employment might hinge on how wounded Tottenham react in this most pivotal of London derbies.