Friday, 27 September 2013

The Second Coming Of The Special One

Jose Mourinho famously announced his arrival in England in 2004 by proclaiming that being a European Champion made him not normal like other managers, christening himself 'The Special One' at his very first press conference. The British media loved this and he was immensely popular with them even beyond his departing their shores under a cloud in 2007. He returned in June 2013 claiming he had mellowed, he was more friendly and was now 'The Happy One'. This charade lasted about a week into the season before we saw glimpses of the old Jose, riling up Paul Lambert on the touchline, attempting to undermine his new nemesis at Manchester United David Moyes by blaming him for the Wayne Rooney situation and, in typical Jose fashion, accusing Uefa of an anti-Mourinho bias following Ramires sending off in the Super Cup.

On the pitch, Chelsea started their second life under Mourinho with two routine home wins and a solid draw at Old Trafford. They lost the Super Cup on penalties to Bayern Munich. Following a two week break they lost at Everton and suffered a further shock defeat at home at home to Basle in the opening Champions League game prompting an ominous dressing room visit from owner Roman Abramovich. They bounced back with a win and unconvincing performance against Fulham last weekend before disposing of League One Swindon Town in the League Cup on Tuesday night.

Better the second time around? Not so far for Jose.

His interview with Sky Sports after Chelsea's 2-0 victory over Fulham made for great viewing and really emphasised how unhappy The Happy One had become in just a few short months. You can watch it in full here, but if you haven't got 11 minutes to spare the main points he made were:

  • He is building a different team to what Chelsea had seen in recent years and fans should be patient with him. He said his current side were struggling to break down sides with a "low block" ( a deep defensive line) which they did so well in his first tenure. He wants his team to dominate games playing a high defensive line, control the possession and recover the ball quickly when they lose it. Basically what Barcelona do. Is the owner having an input?
  • Had plenty to say about Juan Mata, how he needs to adapt his game to suit the Mourinho way, stated that Oscar was a better no.10 and that Mata isn't mobile enough and doesn't do enough without the ball. He blamed "previous managers" for this, a thinly-veiled dig at Rafael Benitez.
  • His criticism of Benitez continued. They played horrible defensive football last year, Ramires on the right, Luiz in the middle and Mata as a second striker in a 4-4-1-1 at times. Not wholly accurate but not entirely false either.
  • He stated that he wants width in his team like he had in his previous reign and so has picked Schurrle and Hazard on the wings. He then went on to complain about Eden Hazard always having has back to goal when receiving the ball and not looking to run onto the ball in behind the defence which is what he wants evidently. It's true yes,  but that's the kind of thing that he shouldn't air out in the open.
  • Bemoaned his lack of striking options. Saying Torres was the only one who can head the ball and saying his biggest striking issue was that "Drogba plays for Galatasaray". That really is something that shouldn't be said in public. Paolo Di Canio was sacked only this week following his open criticism of his players. It's generally considered a bad move.
  • Stated that the profile of the players is extremely different from the last time he was at the club and took the time to remind everyone that despite their worst start in a decade, at the time of the interview Chelsea were top of the league. Hard to argue with either of those.
Along with Rafa Benitez he also took a swipe at Jamie Redknapp in the Sky studio, who had publicly questioned his exclusion of Juan Mata.

Jose almost single-handedly changed the landscape of Premier League tactics last time he came to England. He dominated the league in his first two seasons winning the league by twelve and eight points respectively. When he arrived in 2004, amazingly virtually every team in England played a 4-4-2 with two central midfield players. Mourinho changed this, playing a 4-5-1 formation that became a 4-3-3 when they were attacking with (usually) Claude Makelele sitting behind Michael Essien and Frank Lampard in midfield. The extra man in the middle of the pitch gave his side a huge advantage over teams with just two. Opponents playing a simple 4-4-2 struggled to cope with this and Chelsea ran riot.

Jose introduced 'The Makelele role' to England in his 4-3-3

A typical Chelsea goal from this time involved them winning the ball in their own half via Makelele, he lays it off to Lampard, Lampard plays one of the killer 'long diagonal' passes Mourinho mentioned on Saturday in behind the defence to Duff or Robben who runs towards goal, either shooting or squaring it for Drogba to tap in uncontested. Lampard also chipped in with a plentiful supply from midfield. Essien wasn't afraid to burst forward either knowing Claude Makelele would sit back and protect the defence. This team was a tactical masterpiece and ruthlessly efficient.

Mourinho's title winning machine of 04 - 06

Once Drogba found his feet in England he was unplayable. The absolute perfect centre forward. Strong, quick, good technique, great at link-up play and dominant in the air. Essien in his prime was a totally dominant central midfielder, ranging from box to box with seemingly endless energy. Makelele was the perfect shield for the defence and rarely let the side down. He was arguably the most important player in the team. Lampard was at the time one of the best in the world at that position. And the wingers Mourinho had at his disposal, Damien Duff, Joe Cole and Arjen Robben were particularly versatile, able to switch flanks at will and rip teams apart on the counter attack, something which he is trying to replicate with Hazard and Schurrle to minimal effect so far.

The team Mourinho inherited from Benitez at the end of last season could probably not be much more different to his title winning side of 2006. Rafa played a deep line often using Ramires and Lampard in the centre, sometimes shifting the Brazilian out to the wing when one of his 'big three' of Mata, Oscar and Hazard was unavailable and playing David Luiz in the centre of midfield. Only Hazard out of these three could be considered a winger (and not in the same context as Duff or Robben), the other two are no.10s. The three however played very interchangeable roles which often causes defences nightmares. Ramires is an outstanding player and often doesn't get the credit he deserves, especially for his versatility. He can play either the deeper or the more advanced of the midfield roles to great effect and also looks a natural on the right wing. Frank Lampard plays a much deeper role now than he did in his pomp due to his age. The Torres of 2013 offers nowhere near the same presence as the Drogba of 2006. 

Rafa's Chelsea side of 2012/13.

This side wasn't bad by any stretch. They won the Europa League in Amsterdam, finished 3rd in the Premier League and reached the semi-finals of both domestic cups. The seasons wasn't a total failure, but given the lofty standards set by Mourinho and the fact they had won the Champions League twelve months earlier, the fans demanded more.

The most drastic change Mourinho has made to this side in terms of personnel has been to effectively drop Chelsea's player of the year for the last two seasons, Juan Mata, from the side. On Saturday he cited his reasons for this being Mata's lack of defensive effort for the side compared to Oscar. Mourinho likes to play with wingers and has used Hazard and Schurrle in the wide spots this season leaving room just for one advanced play-maker in the side (Benitez basically had three). In Mourniho's eyes he has a straight choice between Oscar and Mata for this position. And for now at least, he has chosen Oscar.

JMM: The most publicised casualty of 'The Mourinho Way'

Jose won the Portuguese League and Uefa Cup in his first full season at Porto before winning the league and Champions League in his second. He won the Premier League title easily in his first two seasons in England. He won the Seirie A crown in his first season with Inter before achieving the treble in his second. At Madrid he broke Barcelona's stranglehold on trophies in his first season winning the Spanish Cup before usurping them and winning La Liga outright in his sophomore year. As he said himself on Saturday, he does tend to bring instant success to every club he goes.

Within 12 months he secured a first title in 50 years for Chelsea 

Its a proud record and one he's defending this season at Stamford Bridge. I think he knows winning the Premier League this year might just be beyond this Chelsea side and he's trying to emphasise that early on to protect his precious reputation which means so much to him. He's painting his own picture for the season: Worst case scenario they lose out in the league and it's no big deal because he's building a team to dominate as they did before. Best case is they take advantage of the power vacuum at the top in the wake of Ferguson's departure and win it. He's then hailed as a managerial genius for being able to win the league title with a team totally contrasting to his usual image.

I think Chelsea have a shot at major honours this year and Mourinho knows this as well as anyone despite what he says. They should breeze through that Champions League group despite the slow start and over two legged ties Mourinho can out-think any manager alive. They should also be considered among the favourites for the Premier League title The main reason being as I mentioned before, the spot as top dog in England is no longer United's to lose. It's there for someone to reach out and secure for themselves. Hence why Arsenal, City and Spurs all spent so much money this summer.

The bottom line is despite asking for time to make things work, Jose is unlikely to be given it. His glowing reputation and even his job is unlikely to survive a trophy-less, rebuilding year at Stamford Bridge. It might not be fair but it's the truth It's not the place you go to manage if you want time. Interestingly, he was the last manager to survive a non-title-winning year at Chelsea in 06/07 and even then he was gone by September of  next season. Abramovich is quick to swing the axe if managers aren't an instant success and Mourinho is finding out he's not going to be the exception to the rule.

The Deep-Lying Playmaker


No comments:

Post a Comment