Eric Dier says proving the critics of Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho wrong has given the squad extra motivation in their pursuit of silverware this season.
A 2-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday moved Spurs top of the Premier League and sent a statement to their title rivals.
It was the perfect way for Mourinho to celebrate a year in charge at the club and despite continued scepticism over his tactics at times, the Portuguese watched his side produce a trademark disciplined display and gain reward at the weekend.
The 57-year-old has won trophies wherever he has managed, but also been sacked from his last three roles at Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United and yet is definitely enjoying life in north London.
“I think we were pretty effective,” Dier said, after goals from Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso downed Pep Guardiola’s team.
“As players, we want to perform for him (Mourinho). He’s created a fantastic atmosphere, a fantastic camaraderie in the dressing room.
“We all want to perform for him and to anyone saying those kind of things, as players we want to prove them wrong for him. And I think we did that.”
A constant criticism of Mourinho has been his so-called defensive style of football, but Spurs are the joint-second top goalscorers in the division this term with 21 in nine matches.
Tottenham have also been prolific in the Europa League and with games coming thick and fast, subtle rotation across different competitions has helped the club force their way into a strong position at this early stage of the campaign.
Players like Lo Celso, Dele Alli and Gareth Bale have had to bide their time with Harry Kane and Son in sensational form in the Premier League, but Dier insisted: “There’s a fantastic feeling within the squad.
“Everyone has put their individuality aside and is in this for something bigger than that, which is the collective of the team and the team winning games.
“There’s been a big shift in that sense in this squad. Whoever who has to step in at any time… you saw that when Tanguy (Ndombele) goes off, Gio comes on and he makes an impact and scores the goal.”
Spurs will need to look to their depth in defence with Dier’s centre-back partner Toby Alderweireld set for a spell out due to a groin injury.
The duo were excellent against City before the Belgian had to be substituted and have helped the Lilywhites concede just one goal from their last four league games.
“It would be a huge blow for us,” Dier admitted. “We’ve been defending really well.
— Toby Alderweireld (@AlderweireldTob) November 21, 2020
“Three clean sheets in our last four and Toby’s been a big part of that. I thought again he made some fantastic interceptions, tackles, blocks when he needed to.
“Obviously any player in this squad getting injured is a big loss for us and Toby’s no different.”
It could open the door for young Welshman Joe Rodon, who replaced Alderweireld late on against City.
When he signed for Spurs in October, it was after they had registered their Europa League squad and he will therefore miss Thursday’s home tie with Ludogorets, but could be handed a full debut away to Chelsea on Sunday.
Dier said: “He’s very humble, very hard-working. From what I can see he has a fantastic mentality to want to work, to improve.
“From what I’ve seen around the training ground, all of those things have been fantastic and I know the Welsh boys Ben (Davies) and Gareth (Bale) speak very highly of him, so excited for him to be able to help the team.”