The news this week that striker Harry Kane will be sidelined until April with a hamstring injury underlines the very different challenge facing manager Jose Mourinho at Tottenham Hotspur.
In his trophy-laden career which includes two spells at Chelsea and stints at Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United, rarely has Mourinho struggled for a forward line.
Yet on the eve of a visit from runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, the Portuguese says he has no strikers.
What is more, Mourinho is not expecting Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy to open a golden chequebook and provide the kind of A-list signings he could once rely on at Stamford Bridge, the San Siro and the Bernabeu, albeit in the close season window.
Converted winger Son Heung-min has carried the attack to great effect when Kane has been injured in the past, but he is not, according to Mourinho, a real striker.
“Son is not a striker. Danny Rose can play right wing but he’s a left back. Simple as that. Davinson Sanchez can play centre forward tomorrow but he’s a central defender,” Mourinho told reporters at Tottenham’s training ground.
“A striker is what I call a number nine, a target man. Son is not. Some clubs have four or five. If it’s true Inter are buying (Olivier) Giroud, if it’s true, they have Giroud, (Romelu) Lukaku, (Lautaro) Martinez and (Alexis) Sanchez, some teams have four or five.”
While frustrated at the lack of free weeks to put across his ideas to the Tottenham players, he said he is enjoying the challenge of making do with a squad he has inherited.
Sixth-placed Tottenham have won five of their nine league games under Mourinho but only one of the last four.
Mourinho’s record of 17 major trophies at Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and United, not to mention two league titles and a Champions League with Porto, place him in elite company.
Yet his detractors point to the fact that he has never really had to work on a tight budget.
When he arrived at Chelsea in 2004 he used owner Roman Abramovich’s financial muscle to stunning effect. That is unlikely to happen at Tottenham who run a tighter ship.
“Of course, that was quite simple. Which one is the central defender that I want? That one. Thank you very much,” Mourinho said of his spending power at Chelsea.
Re-shaping Tottenham into his image, he says, will require more patience and he has ruled out gambling in January with players that might not improve the side.
“When I arrived the train was on the run,” he said. “It’s a situation I decided to accept and a situation where I have to give my best to improve. I didn’t expect Harry (Kane) and Moussa Sissoko and Ben Davies to be out with big injuries but it doesn’t change my approach to the situation.
“I think I have to go with more eyes on the future.”
Mourinho pointed to the example of Liverpool at how transfer windows can transform a club.
“Liverpool needed a keeper and they got Alisson Becker, one of the best three in the world, the problem was resolved in one transfer window,” he said.
“It depends on the situation but we are a different club and have to do things in a different way. If you have amazing transfer windows you need less time.
“Balanced tranfer windows you need more time. We need more transfer windows because we are never going to be the transfer window kings.”
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