Mourinho’s tactics look like they’re designed to absolve him of blame and put pressure on Tottenham players

Many years ago, there was a lively post-match debate on Sky Sports between Graeme Souness and Gordon Strachan.

The subject was the optimum way to defend corners, because the two Scots had just watched a team using zonal marking concede from a set piece.

Strachan was a proponent of defending zonally at corners, pointing to statistics about its increased effectiveness and explaining that it prevented attacking block-offs. Souness insisted that man-marking was a better approach. His main point, which he repeated on multiple occasions, was that “zonal marking lets players off the hook”.

Souness, whether or not he realised it, was effectively saying that his tactical preference stemmed from wanting to pin the blame for conceding on a player. If a zonal marking approach fails, the system — and therefore the manager who implements it — is considered culpable. But in a man-marking system, if someone gets outjumped by an opponent, you can point the finger directly at them.

And therefore what appeared a tactical debate was, in actual fact, nothing of the sort. It was really a debate about man-management, about the relationship between players and their boss, about the extent to which a manager must carry the can for their failings on the pitch. Strachan focused upon which was best for the team. Souness was about which was best for him.

This decade-old debate came to mind this week, in light of Jose Mourinho’s reaction to Tottenham Hotspur drawing at Newcastle United from 2-1 up with six minutes left, while permitting their highest single-game xG figure of the Premier League season so far. BBC reporter Juliette Ferrington asked Mourinho why his side keep on relinquishing leads, whereas previously his sides were renowned for hanging onto them. “Same coach, different players,” Mourinho responded.

Not for the first time, a revealing answer stemmed from a question framed in light of his previous successes — Mourinho has a habit of giving more detailed answers to questions that begin with things like “Jose, as someone who has won it all…”

It would be quite possible, though, for his players to respond in kind.
To varying extents, the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez have previously played in a stern Spurs defence under Mauricio Pochettino. That was an entirely different style of defending, based around pressure in advanced positions and a high line.

When that defensive approach got breached, we tended to talk about the high line rather than the individuals.

It’s the same, for example, for Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich, who used an extraordinarily high line en route to European Cup success last year. It was impossible to watch them defend against Barcelona in the last eight or final opponents Paris Saint-Germain without almost jumping out of your seat, such was the bravery of their high line. Had they conceded to PSG from a through-ball and a run in behind, Flick would have been blamed. But he would probably have accepted responsibility, for he knows that a high-risk, high-reward strategy is best for his side.

Mourinho once used that approach. Watch his triumphant Porto side throughout the Champions League knockout phase in 2003-04 and you’ll be surprised by how high his defence position themselves. These days, his defences sit deeper, dropping back to their own penalty box quickly, particularly if Tottenham have gone ahead. On multiple occasions this season, that approach has cost them. While Mourinho would explain it forms part of his attacking strategy, attempting to draw the opposition forward and give Spurs space to counter-attack into, rarely have his side constructed regular breaks to justify their deep positioning.

The thing with defending deep is that you’re asking your defenders to do more traditional defensive tasks. There are more aerial challenges inside your box, more situations where you have to stick tight to a player who is in a goalscoring position, more danger to anticipate and more blocks to be made. It also means that it’s more possible to concede goals that are not, in isolation, attributable to managerial strategy.

When Tottenham lost 2-1 away to Liverpool in December, for example, the goals came from a crazy deflection, and then a late set-piece concession (from, of course, man-to-man marking).

The first goal was unfortunate, but if you allow the opposition 76 per cent of the possession and 17 shots to your eight, there’s more chance of one finding its way into the net almost accidentally. Similarly, if you allow that much pressure, you concede more corners than you win (seven to four in this case), and there’s more chance of one leading to a goal. These things add up over time.

It is sometimes said that Mourinho is antiquated tactically; that his inability to win trophies recently is because he hasn’t adjusted strategically. There’s clearly an element of truth to that, in comparison to Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, but his primary problem is surely his inability to command the respect of players over a sustained period of time, evidenced by sudden drop-offs in his pre-Tottenham stints with Chelsea and Manchester United.
It came as little surprise that, after Mourinho responded to Sunday’s 2-2 on Tyneside by blaming his players, some of them objected. It’s difficult to imagine many other current managers responding similarly.

But that’s logical if Mourinho’s tactical approach is also out of step with that of his contemporaries. The tactical development of football, particularly over the last couple of decades, is about universality, about particular tasks being done collectively. Modern sides press aggressively from the front and play out from the back, meaning defensive play starts with your attackers and attacking play starts in defence. Every concept is a task for the entire side.

Mourinho’s approach is more old-school. He works less than other contemporary managers on prepared attacking possession routines, preferring to allow playmakers to find solutions themselves. In a world of false nines, Mourinho has always liked true strikers such as Didier Drogba, Diego Milito and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He also likes proper defenders that belong in their own box: John Terry, Lucio, Ricardo Carvalho.

With that approach, it’s more viable to pin the blame on somebody when things go wrong. If a goal is conceded, a defender is more obviously at fault than the system. And this comes back to that Strachan-Souness debate, which demonstrated that tactical decision-making and man-management are not entirely separate concepts.

Mourinho’s reputation has never been lower, which is why he is determined to shift culpability onto his players and protect himself.

It’s entirely possible that his tactical decision-making is also geared towards absolving himself of blame.

Now, he’s fighting to prove he deserves to be in charge of Tottenham, rather than in his previous role: in a Sky Sports studio, nodding along with Souness.

By Michael Cox writing for the Athletic

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SpurAndy🍒🥧
Admin
1 year ago

Out today but might make it back for the ritual slaying.

wasdanspurs
1 year ago

Another waste of a perfectly good Sunday: https://flatoeuf.com/same-coach-different-results/

TCY
TCY
1 year ago

Funk, best of luck with the move. Don’t think I have the stomach to watch this later this morning. So despite everything, Daniel and Jose, to the contrary notwithstanding,

COYMFS!

This is the first big game I have missed in a bucket of years. Says something about what is going on, at least in Southwest Ohio.

Chauveljn
1 year ago

Which half will United be gifted their penalty? Just wondering how VAR and the ref will work it, handball or for a dive (sorry, meant ‘foul’).

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

D’oh, I forgot the other option of a penalty in each half…

mystic arnold
mystic arnold
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

And at least one RED CARD for a Spurs player.

merrance
merrance
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

WHAT ARE THE BETTING ODDS ON US OR THE MANCS GETTING A PEN?

stevo1987
stevo1987
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Doth in not stay mainly in the plain?

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  stevo1987

Madrid lies between two mountain ranges. I suppose that is a plain?

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Are you incapacitated Funken? Have you hurt yourself and chair bound?

SpurAndy🍒🥧
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Staying local Cas, or moving afar?

SpurAndy🍒🥧
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Son was in Sudbury for a while, lovely part of the country.

stevo1987
stevo1987
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Oh no! Have you got an East Anglia covid passport?

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Best of luck then with the move. Hope the weather is clement.

DAVID
DAVID
1 year ago

Palace players fighting to keep Hodgson in a job.

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  DAVID

If Graham Potter doesn’t come to Spurs, you’d think Palace could do much worse than line him up to replace Hodgson.

SpurAndy🍒🥧
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Do we really want Potter, Brighton only 5 points off relegation?

Chauveljn
1 year ago

Read this. You’ll see with a decent finisher or two and Brighton, according to chances created, should be top eight minimum, likely top six.

https://www.sportinglife.com/football/news/is-potter-too-good-for-brighton/189504

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

They say the table never lies, but it can perhaps mislead.

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SpurAndy🍒🥧
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

I’m always slightly suspicious of a new metric created to titillate the increasing call for more data, mainly by the betting firms I bet. He may be the new Poch but its always a very big step up from just trying to survive in the PL to challenging for the title. We’ve clearly got better players than Brighton so I wouldn’t be distraught if he came in but can’t say I’m convinced he’s the right choice.

Chauveljn
1 year ago

Maybe not, I just think Brighton are missing one or two pieces from suddenly being top half under Potter. His teams play decent football.

SpurAndy🍒🥧
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Agree with that Chauv, beginning of the season they were playing much more attractive footy than we have for most of the season so he gets my vote from that perspective.

Chauveljn
1 year ago
I dunno how this happened... 
Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Much depends on Harry. If HK wants José to stay on… If Harry wants him gone but would play under a specific replacement (Nagelsmann) or not.

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Palace as a club have great potential. They are the pre-eminent club in the expanse of London South of the Thames, a massive catchment area. They only have Millwall, Charlton and Wimbledon AFC as neighbours.

SeattleSpursGuy
SeattleSpursGuy
1 year ago

Gotta love Sky Sports. Their ‘preview’ for Sunday’s game was showing Bruno Fernandes score his penalty against us in the game at Old Trafford. And none of the six goals that followed. Wankers.

Chauveljn
1 year ago

That’s not like Sky to be biased…

Chauveljn
1 year ago

Next Saturday Prince Philip’s coffin will travel in a specially converted Land Rover which he helped design, as per his request. Love it, class.

merrance
merrance
1 year ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

the prince wanted to depopulate us he would like to reincarnate as a virus. you included chauve..
splendid chap
even snopes said it was true,
https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/prince-philip-deadly-virus/

61 Spurs Njut 🌰
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

I must confess 🙄

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Don’t torture yourself Funken. We aren’t getting 4th place. Or 5th.

Just roll with the punches.

Chauveljn
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Yes, you might have expressed that once or twice.

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago

Carragher being an arsehole as usual.

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruxie

Along with Milner.

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago

How did that miss?

Chauveljn
1 year ago

Well, City losing has given Yanited an extra incentive to beat us. It’s the slimmest of chances but it’s been a crazy season.

61 Spurs Njut 🌰
Admin
1 year ago

Two games running I switch on to the Pooh game to see them score within two minutes. Just shoot me now.

Chauveljn
1 year ago

Emote for me dahling…

1618068225645.jpg
Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago

Good viewing tonight on BBC 4.

22:45

Invisible Cities…Venice.

Give yourself a treat.

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruxie

The other two programes a really good too.

Florence and Naples.

Watchem!

SpurAndy🍒🥧
SpurAndy🍒🥧
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruxie

Scenem 👍

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago

Need a favour from Palace.

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

heh!

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

Jinx

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruxie

prapsnot

foeorfreund
foeorfreund
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

My armchair experience would be similar sofa.

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago

Well it’s happened again,,,

I put in an Acca and the first fixture loses again.

In the FFL I dropped Dallas to the bench.

Doh.

DAVID
DAVID
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruxie

Reverse midas….

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago
Reply to  DAVID

I promise not to shake hands!

Bruxie
Bruxie
1 year ago
Reply to  Funkenschlag!

You edited that. Cheatski!
So what if I did…

Last edited 1 year ago by Anti-Growth Coalition..
61 Spurs Njut 🌰
Admin
1 year ago

Nice to see the Wanderers in the bottom half again.

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