After another victory over a top 4 premier league rival, we ask, is Jose Mourinho a creator or a destroyer of the beautiful game?
We all remember the iconic images of the relatively unknown Portuguese manager tearing down the touchline at Old Trafford. Shortly after that, Porto won the 2003/2004 champions league and he was snatched up by Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
Mourinho was given an unlimited budget to pick some of the world’s greatest players and he made some very successful signings in Claude Makelele £12m, Petr Cech £7m, Arjen Robben £12m and captured Ashley Cole from arsenal for £5m. Of course there were some duds too, including Adrian Mutu £16m, Shaun Wright-Phillips £21m, and who could forget one of the league’s greatest flops Andriy Shevchenko £30m – though he was most likely an Abramovich signing.
In Jose’s first spell at Chelsea, they played some fantastic offensive football at times. With an attacking foursome that consisted of Drogba at his physical peak, flanked by speed merchants and dribbling masters Duff and Robben, with Lampard playing in a ten role, box to box midfielder, that could chip in with 20 goals a season. It was a devastating foursome, protected by a the defensive midfield linchpin Makelele.
The best example of his side’s attacking flair came against Barcelona in the Champions League in 2005. Behind 2-1 on aggregate – they needed goals. Duff, Gudjohnsen and Lampard all scored, before Ronaldinho’s hip shimmy goal nearly sent them out. However, a last minute header from John Terry proved that when Mourinho wanted to or most importantly when he allowed it, Chelsea could be an extremely potent attacking team.
However, on Saturday evening we saw the worst of what Jose has cultivated at Chelsea. When Zouma’s name was on the team sheet to face Manchester United, it was evident what Mourinho’s plans were going to be. Park the bus, ten men behind the ball, soak up the pressure and pray Hazard can score on the break. Like so many times before, it worked perfectly. There appears to be no other manager that enjoys a 1-0 scoreline more than Mourinho.
It’s a style that was described in 2005 by former Real Madrid manager and World Cup winner Jorge Valdano as “shit hanging from a stick.”
Can you blame Jose though? It’s a tactic that has worked countless times for him in the past. He consistently beats more skilled, flashy, technically superior teams in both the Premier League and Champions League.
There’s no doubt he altered his playing style and tactics at Real Madrid. He stood toe to toe with Barcelona, who at the time had one of the greatest teams ever in world football and took on one of the most gifted coaches in Pep Guardiola.
Though his behaviour was dubious at times in Spain, Real Madrid’s record versus Barcelona was played 17, won 5, drawn 6, lost 6, scoring 25 goals and conceding 31. A nearly 50/50 record against that Barca team was a magnificent achievement.
However, the worst trait of Mourinho appears to be coaching the creativity out of players. This has been very noticeable since his return to Chelsea. Oscar was tipped to be the new Kaka, instead he’s been transformed into a tough tackling Scott Parker type. Willian was an attacking winger at Shaktar Donetsk, now his main responsibility is to provide defensive cover for full-back Branislav Ivanovich. He couldn’t handle Luiz’s lack of defensive discipline and shipped him off to PSG, and Jose tried his best to thwart attacking phenomenon Eden Hazard, telling him repeatedly he needed to track back more and concentrate on his defensive responsibilities. Thankfully Hazard has managed to evade these orders because he’s about the only player Mourinho has that can single-handedly win a match.
As long as these negative tactics work against the likes of Man City, Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Man Utd, it’s highly unlikely he will ever revert to free flowing football.
If destruction is a form of creation, Jose Mourinho is the God of creation.