Jose Mourinho is back! After 11 months of being out on the sidelines, The Special One is back in football management, replacing Mauricio Pochettino as manager of Tottenham Hotspur.
During his 11 months in what was a painful wilderness, for someone who’s a thorough football man, he’s had some time to reflect on his last two jobs – at Chelsea and Manchester United – which ended in disappointment and dismissals.
What has Mourinho learned? What will he do differently? Here are five things he has to do differently to avoid the kind of exits he suffered at Chelsea and Manchester United.
Be The Captain Of The Ship
Ok, this may be advice coming a few hours too late.
One major problem Mourinho faced at Chelsea and Manchester United was a continuous contrast in ideas with Michael Emenalo [Director Of Football at Chelsea at the time] and Ed Woodward [Chief Executive at Manchester United]. There were often disagreements on what player to sign, the mould of players to sign, which ones to sell, when to invest hugely and when to hold back. Mourinho has to sit and hash these things out with Daniel Levy before going ahead.
Another aspect of where Mourinho also seemed to lack full authority was in the style of play. “We should attack, attack, attack”, that was Paul Pogba calling on Manchester United to turn the screws more even when the coach hadn’t seemed to give that go-ahead. At Chelsea, and even on a few occasions at Real Madrid before then, the Portuguese had spats with top players like Eden Hazard and Cristiano Ronaldo over how the team would set up or approach matches.
Jose Mourinho has to aspire to the kind of authority coaches like Diego Simeone [at Atletico Madrid] and Pep Guardiola [at Manchester City] command. Of course, because he’s right up there at the highest level as a manager, but also because of his unique and often eccentric nature; he needs everyone to be on-board with him if he’s to succeed.
He may well get axed again; after all, coaches are often grouped into those who have been sacked and those waiting to be sacked, but he now has to be judged majorly on the quality of the results and nothing else.
Pick your battles
Diplomacy isn’t quite Jose’s favourite trait. In the past, Jose Mourinho has found it necessary to have a go at everyone and anyone. Name it: Coaches, players, media, referees, the league organisers, no one is safe from Jose Mourinho.
Of course, this doesn’t always come out as a bad thing when the going is good. But when results aren’t going your way, everything is ten times worse. Your clashes with the players are magnified, you start to lose the battles against the media, the referees start to look like they have an agenda against you. It’s one you are never winning.
Jose Mourinho isn’t one to hold back and he always says it as he feels, wearing his emotions on his sleeves. But now, with all the experience he’s gathered he needs to know when to speak and when he’ll be in trouble if he speaks.
Daniel Levy will definitely hope he doesn’t get suspended as often as he had done in the past. He’ll also hope his manager doesn’t fight everyone into turning his club into Public Enemy No 1.
Communicate Your Philosophy Quickly & Clearly
Jose Mourinho is typically a counter-attacking coach. Of course, we’ve seen him tweak it around a few times; sometimes his sides had to be ultra-defensive, some other times they’ve had to go gung-ho offensively.
But a lot has changed in the last three years or so. He’s had to modify his style a lot. That on its own isn’t a problem. Indeed, it is a sign of growth that you question your style and philosophy in a bid to strengthen it. The problem with Mourinho is that he’s almost had to do this adaptation due to doubt and panic.
Pochettino’s team were known for their passing style – often patient with it, their pressing, and their desire to impose themselves on matches regardless of the opponent. Whatever style Mourinho wants to introduce has to be clear from the start.
However he wants to play must be communicated to the players from his first training session and there should be no doubts, at least not from the coach himself.
Manage Your Big Stars Better. Player Power Is A Thing.
We all hope this is an ideal world where the coach calls the shots 100%. We hope a coach is powerful enough to move the pieces around as he wants. That Ernesto Valverde could choose to play Lionel Messi at central midfield and Maurizio Sarri can take off Cristiano Ronaldo whenever he wants without any consequences.
But this isn’t realistic. This is 2019 and – some will argue it is only right that – the players are the biggest actors in football. Footballers run the show.
These days, players are so powerful, they influence team selection, style of play, hiring and firing of managers, and even how low the pitch is cut. The biggest players in many teams earn more than the coach and so it’s easier to fire the manager when there’s a head to head between player and coach.
In this sense, players are bigger than coaches.
That’s something Jose Mourinho has to deal with. He has a big ego and in the past, he’s decided against conceding to players who have tried to go against him. From Robben to Ronaldo, Hazard to Pogba, Mourinho has had a fair share of player-manager tussles.
Of course, he needs to have complete authority [as explained in point No 1], but he also has to manage his players better, because when push comes to shove, the club are likely going to back a player over any manager. That’s something Jose Mourinho will have to get used to.
Fans Love Attacking Football. Give it to them maybe?
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are different ways to play the game. In fact, I’m an advocate of playing however you please, to achieve wins and ultimately trophies. Jose Mourinho indeed is a strong advocate of scoring more than the opponent. He wouldn’t mind 50 1-0 wins a season. I wouldn’t too…
But a lot is changing very quickly these days. Attacking, expressive and ‘risky’ football is what’s in vogue at the moment. And while there’s still Diego Simeone who’s in the same school of thought as myself and Jose, a lot of young football fans have come to love coaches like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Maurizio Sarri etc. Pragmatism is hardly acceptable these days.
At Manchester United, Jose Mourinho was often criticised for putting on the brakes and stifling his players. Spurs fans, with their attacking talents may have the same thoughts if they aren’t given the attacking football they crave.
But if Jose Mourinho is going to tilt towards being more expressive, it shouldn’t be just because the fans [or the media] demand it. It should also be because, in many ways, that may be his smartest option.
Like the many football fans who are flowing with the tide of attacking football, a lot of young players too either can’t defend properly or don’t care about it. Players will rather press [wildly sometimes] than keep their defensive shape and defensive discipline is a rare trait these days. It seems only smart that a coach plays to the strength of his players.
But Jose Mourinho has never been one to do things any other way except his own way…