Will Ryan Mason be able to prod Tottenham into the top four? 5 problems facing the interim boss

Ryan Mason was once again appointed interim head coach of Tottenham following the sacking of Cristian Stellini after less than a month in charge.

After temporarily stepping into the top role following Antonio Conte’s sacking, Stellini lasted just four games before being sent off after Sunday’s 6-1 defeat by Newcastle.

Mason will be in 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 season.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the issues Spurs face as they try to salvage a Champions League place in their final six games of the season.

Case for defense

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

Stellini appeared to be taking the blame for a change in defensive tactics that had crumbled in the first 21 minutes at St James’ Park as Spurs quickly found themselves 5-0 down.

While injuries to key defensive personnel played their part, deploying Ivan Perisic and Pedro Porro at full-backs was a decision that ended up in 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 defence, which helped Spurs regroup and concede just once in the second half, but the damage had already been done.

Forsters waiting

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

Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris has apologized to Spurs fans for Sunday’s “embarrassing” defeat, acknowledging the players showed a “lack of pride”.

While Lloris cannot be directly blamed for the goals conceded, the Frenchman went off at half-time with a muscle problem that could lead to another spell on the sideline.

Fraser Forster has proved an able replacement for Lloris at the start of the campaign and should Mason be stripped of the French goalkeeper for a number of key games, the veteran former Southampton stopper will offer a sure pair of hands to help steady the ship.

Brazil striker Richarlison is another Spurs squad member who has been hampered by fitness issues.

After recovering from a calf injury sustained before the final international break, Richarlison made a couple of late substitute appearances.

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

Reconnect with fans

Ryan Mason (right) at Goodison Park

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

Sunday’s chaotic start at St James’ Park saw some Spurs fans heading for the exit well before the half-time whistle.

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

Whether or not the quick departure of Stellini and the rest of his support staff provides it, putting faith in Mason once again restores at least a connection to “one of them” on the bench.

Ignore outside noise

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy

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

Former Spurs midfielder Mason has been part of the coaching staff for the past 18 months and has already seen a lot of changes behind the scenes.

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

As debate continues over the future direction of the club under chairman Daniel Levy and whether England captain Harry Kane will still be there next season, Mason just needs to clear out all the background noise and focus on producing the required results through the their remaining six games, which also include away games against Liverpool and Aston Villa, who still have European ambitions of their own.

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