“What is life without hate?” – Roger Bennett
I don’t like Jose Mourinho. I just don’t get the love affair with the man at all. Sure, he’s a brilliant tactician and a great man manager who seems to get the most out of his players. I get that. But there’s another side of the coin to this man, something that has been apparent – even more so – ever since he began managing Real Madrid.
Jose Mourinho is a coward.
He wasn’t always a coward, of course. During his first Chelsea stint, Mourinho’s teams did – at times – play gorgeous attacking football. His 2012 Real Madrid team won the league while also breaking the all time goals record. Those are on his resume, a resume that is increasingly becoming weaker in my opinion. (And it is an opinion that is manifested in hate admittedly.)
I was at the Arsenal – Chelsea snoozefest this past weekend and it reinforced what I initially thought. Mourinho, instead of taking the game to a tired and weakened Arsenal, sat back and absorbed the pressure. Where a creative midfielder would have wreaked havoc against again a weak Arsenal squad, he chose to field none of his two sublime creators, opting instead for the industrial Willian. His lone creative player on the day? Eden Hazard, who was subbed off after about an hour for the workmanlike Andre Schurrle after Mourinho grew tired of Hazard taking on three or four defenders and conceding possession.
Certainly, Arsenal didn’t do themselves any favors here. They failed to register a shot on target til about the 85th minute. Their midfield was tired, which will happen when your squad is only about 19 players deep. (Wenger paid the price for this against West Ham, where he lost his most prolific goal scorer, Aaron Ramsey, to injury.) His lone striker at the time, Oliver Giroud, is suffering from a drop in confidence which may or may not be related to fatigue. (Nicklas Bendtner doesn’t count, for he is not human.)
I have argued this point a lot on Twitter, and until he proves otherwise, I will hold it to be true: Jose Mourinho plays to not lose. (The man himself said so. So there’s that.) Ever since Pep Guardiola eviscerated him 5-0 at the Nou Camp, he seems to bottle his creative players and line his team up in a defensive manner. (Jorge Valdano, an enemy of Mourinho’s, would argue it was even earlier than that.)
Valdano says that Mourinho – and Rafa Benitez as well – look to try to control everything because they were not former players. “The lives of Mourinho and Benítez have crossed in a world that is ever more scrutinised and exposed by the media, which is why they look at each other with such distrust, but they have two things in common: a previously denied, hitherto unsatisfied hunger for glory, and a desire to have everything under control… Both of those things stem from one key factor: neither Mourinho nor Benítez made it as a player. That has made them channel all their vanity into coaching. Those who did not have the talent to make it as players do not believe in the talent of players, they do not believe in the ability to improvise in order to win football matches. In short, Benítez and Mourinho are exactly the kind of coaches that Benítez and Mourinho would have needed to have made it as players.”
This “accusation” of not being a player was also lobbed at Mourinho by Sergio Ramos, when the manager accused his former player of not sticking to the gameplan after the above mentioned 5-0.
I don’t know if that’s the root of it, but I do know that it exists. Jose Mourinho constantly accuses Pep Guardiola of managing ready made teams, but I would argue that Mourinho – with the exception of his days with Porto, who weren’t slouches either – does the same too. It is HIS Real Madrid team that was the most expensive in history – even having former Balon d’Or winners on the bench – and it was his Inter squad that brought in seven new signings before winning the Champions League. (I’m not making excuses for Pep here. His teams also spent a lot of cash on players. The difference is Pep uses these players and highlights their strengths while Jose seeks to control them.)
I really hope Jose changes his tune. He can be a stylish winner and he has the resources to do it, so why won’t he?
Is he afraid his teams will take the spotlight off him?