Jose Mourinho, over the last decade or so, has ruled the roost of football management. He hasn’t been the only winner, of course, with Guardiola and Ferguson being right up there with him. However, there is very little point in comparing the three, and I have no intentions of doing that. But I would analyze Mourinho on why Mourinho is an evolved man and what that means for Chelsea.
For a lot of people, Mourinho has represented a single style of playing, managing to do it so perfectly that he gets the results that he wants at a rather uncanny regularity. This single style of playing has led the critics to go as far as calling him the enemy of the game. They point to Chelsea 1.0 and Inter and even before these, to Porto. Madrid experience is rarely brought to light, and the attacking style of play is attributed more to the players than to Mourinho.
Even at Chelsea 2.0, while analysing the last season, we tend to recall the tame losses and draws against the bottom table teams and how the defensive play of Chelsea along with a lack of a genuine striker put paid to their hopes of a title. But we do not recall the entertaining games – Away to Everton, Man City, Arsenal, Norwich at home, Tottenham both home and away… In fact, throughout the first half of the season, Mourinho played a highly attacking pass and move game, similar to what we see this season except the fact that there was no Fabregas back then. The shift in play came at a very conspicuous time last season – after the team was ousted from the League. There was a reason based in pragmatism that led to that shift. The pragmatism was the realisation that he did not have the players to play the pleasing football and win. The reason was that this being a new team with a bunch of players not knowing what a title challenge looks like, it was very important that they understand and get used to the pressure of winning every game and pose a title challenge. And it wasn’t like he didn’t say all of that a hundred times last season. But we ignore. So much for mind games, eh?
When the result is constant, it is natural to believe that the process has remained the same. Mourinho started winning with a distinct style, and since he has continued to win, it has led us to believe that the style has remained the same despite outright proof of the contrary. But Mourinho had changed, and he has evolved and so had his ideas of football and hence his playing techniques. No top coach can hope to stay at the top if he can’t evolve. And Mourinho had stayed on top for over a decade and in 4 different leagues. So to suggest that he only knows one way of playing is naive at best. Most people, while analyzing Mourinho in the way they do, tend to ignore the largely obvious fact that he is the ultimate pragmatist (something I discussed above and how people forget). And being the pragmatist that he is, he is never going to play a high line against a super pace Liverpool (Sorry Wenger, but I think we can all agree that you are more of a voyeur than a pragmatist :P).
Jose Mourinho, in that sense, is, probably the most attacking football manager we have seen. He sets his team up to win. Prepares them psychologically to not entertain even the slightest of thoughts of defeat. And backs himself and his team to overcome the biggest obstacle no matter how. Jose Mourinho’s objective of being in football is to win. He wouldn’t possibly understand why you would play football for any other reason. But he appreciates the fine things of football, as opposed to the public opinion. Which is why Chelsea 2.0 is so attractive to watch. He isn’t doing this the first time either. There was the second season at Chelsea 1.0 with Robben and Duff on the wings. There was the season at Madrid when they broke all the league records. And he is doing it again at Chelsea. Only this time he wants to leave behind a legacy. Like Ferguson. It was apparent when he said last season that this team’s best years will come five years from now or when earlier this season he said Chelsea could rule for the next decade. Those are words of man with a purpose beyond the current season. We very rarely see the good things coming. If we have learned anything from the past, its that with Mourinho they inadvertently arrive and at Chelsea with Jose 2.0, we may not have taken stock of how good the things might get.