Jose Mourinho, the football coach : the good and the bad

I would not talk about the pantomime villain act, or the eye-gouging antics, or the fawning by the media. This is what I think about Jose Mourinho, the football coach, in plain-speak football terms.

Jose is a superb reactive manager, one of the best. His best comes in setting up his team against attacking teams, nullifying the attack and knowing how to win, eventually. Only Rafa Benitez, of modern-day managers, compares. And Jose is better than Rafa.

Against weaker teams or teams that are playing on the counter against them ( or even, bless the term, parking the bus), his team’s always depend on individual talented players creating that one moment of magic – and his team’s always had such players- Deco, Maniche, Robben, Drogba, Duff, Eto’o, Sneijder, Cristiano, Benzema, Ozil, Hazard, Fabregas et al.

Most teams in the premier league have figured it out by now. Every team plays on the counter against them. And Hazard’s and Cesc’s poor form has made their attack rather impotent. Mourinho will not create great attacking movement, and set up his team to eviscerate opponent defenders. That is the reason his teams are floundering.

Is he a cheque-book manager, then? Yes and No. To win for Real Madrid or Chelsea, he would need a massive amount of money, as he is not much good in setting up to play attacking, winning football. But if you give him, say, a Stoke or a Villarreal to manage, he will overperform – he will have to be reactive then, and he is the best reactive manager around.

Note this, though. His team’s will do rather well against Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool. And in the Champion’s League.

And no, I will resist commenting about Jose Mourinho, the person.


Rafa Benitez has had a great half-season at Chelsea

No questioning that now – with the Europa league win.

And all of this while having to contend with the fans, who were disgusting, by the way.

Here’s a post from F365.

Well done, Rafa. Here’s hoping to see more of you at the Premier League, or if not, at the Bundesliga and the La Liga. Those are the only three leagues I follow :)

Premier League Playoff


(a) Arsenal win 2-1 at St James’ Park;

(b) Chelsea draw 0-0 at the Bridge against the Toffees on the final day,

Both teams will be identical on (a) points (b) GD (c) goals scored (d) goals conceded. 

and there could be a playoff to decide on third place.

Would not happen, surely. But in the realms of possibility. Interesting.

Stat courtesy F365.

Guardian: England is rushing in young players to the first XI

Read this article, superbly well said.

Guardian: Rushing young players into the England team does them few favours (England should follow the lead of France and Germany, who let their young players develop in youth teams)

Also, there is this superb comment by MirandaC, which needs re-posting. So here goes.

If England are threadbare at higher level it isn’t the fault of the top Premiership clubs whose academies are providing a footballing education second to none, as shown by the fact that three of the semi-finalists in this year’s NextGen, the under-19s CL, are English: Chelsea, Arsenal and Villa – the first two of which are all to often unthinkingly blamed for depriving young British talent of its rightful chance.

In fact almost a hundred percent of the intake into those clubs’ academies at age 9-10 is local. The question to ask, therefore, is why so many of those local kids who get to enjoy coaching and facilities that are the envy of the world from their earliest years fail to make it. What’s missing, the talent or the ambition and graft?

Don’t know about other clubs, but at Arsenal in recent years two English kids, Wilshere and Gibbs, who entered the academy at age 9 have made it into the first team; the others, many of whom were considered just as talented initially – e.g. Henri Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel Thomas – did not, reportedly because they fooled about and failed to put in the grind. Of Arsenal’s current Next-Gen first-choice team only three (Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden and Nico Yennaris) are English; the remainder are Bulgarian, German, Dutch, Catalan, Swiss … i.e. kids who entered the academy in their mid- teens but who in a couple of years have risen to the top, leaving their English counterparts lagging behind.

It seems unlikely that these foreigners are innately more talented, especially in the case of the Catalans and Germans who, had they clearly been embryo Iniestas and Messis, would surely have been snapped up by Barca and Bayern’s academies rather than exiled to cold, rainy London? It must, then, be the other factor that makes for success: application. Foreign kids are putting in the effort and making better use of the coaching and facilities than the locals who’ve enjoyed them from their earliest years.

Since being lousy at football isn’t built into the English gene pool, and since there’s no lack of opportunities provided by top Premiership clubs, that leaves us with the culture at large. More precisely it leaves us with the football media.

Instead of giving NextGen the coverage it deserves, the Guardian has treated us to a series of space-fillers – e.g. that one about England’s Rio hotel. This epitomizes the problem. Youth development, kids’ stuff, who gives a fuck about that? Which clubs are doing an excellent job and deserve applause for their success – that’s Arsenal, Villa and Chelsea – and which clubs are not and deserve to be shamed – that’s City who failed to make it through their NextGen group – does the Guardian give a toss? No, it does not. What it cares about, or imagines its readers care about, is the waterbeds and shopping and security at England’s Rio hotel. Why are we surprised that 13-14-year-old English kids have absorbed our interests and values? We’ve taught them that their little competitions where they get to pit their skills and graft against their contemporaries at Europe’s top clubs are of no importance or interest; still less important was the work that produced their success. What’s important in England is shopping and waterbeds in a luxury hotel already booked for a tournament that England haven’t yet qualified for. English football doesn’t do football, not as such; it just does footballing bling.

The Guardian is quasi-left-lib, and sometimes does not remain my cup of tea; but the comments are often amazing! Here’s one.

Song Lyrics – Sporting Performances

There was this line I put for the performance of Chelsea against Barcelona in the CL semi finals on my Facebook status

They paved paradise, put up a parking lot…
– Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi.

The obvious reference is to the ‘parking the bus’ tactic they used to destroy the game and try to win by hook or by crook…

And on asking about the KKR performance for this year by a friend, I was quick to say

Bungle in the Jungle, and it’s all right by me…
– Jethro Tull, Bungle in the Jungle.

So that get’s me thinking, what can be a few others? Will figure out a few more and put in, as and when I think of any.

Andriy Shevchenko leaves for Milan

A chapter ends in the English premiership. A chapter that promised to be great, promised to be memorable,  but a chapter that ended up depressingly short, so much so that tunnel-visioned English and Asian fans of the Premiership (and nothing else) will end up remembering this particular episode with sarcastic humor.

And that is unfortunate. Andriy Shevchnko came into Chelsea as the best striker in the world, just returning from scoring the winning goal in a Champion’s league final. He was an expensive purchase, he was a personal friend of Roman Abramovich. He would be playing for Chelsea, the club with all the money in the world, the club on its way up, and the club with the inimitable Jose Mourinho. Andriy Shevchenko was almost destined to be a success.

And really, he should have been. He had it all, and in his peak, he could really be compared with the best of the best out-and-out strikers of this generation, Marco Van Basten and Gabriel Batistuta. Even Thierry Henry. Probably only Ronaldo (the gap-toothed original) could be considered better than him… Shevchenko was brilliant all the way. He was spectacular in his days of youth, forming a super partnership with Serhiy Rebrov at Dynamo Kyiv…. and he was absolutely unstoppable at times with Milan.

But then, somehow, he failed to kick on in Chelsea. The mistrust that Mourinho had for him, allied with Mourinho’s deteriorating relationship with Abramovich put Shevchenko at a state of unease. Also, Didier Drogba having the season of his life did not help much either.

Mourinho’s penchant for playing only one man up front, apparently, should have suited Shevchenko, for Milan used to play a similar game. But the difference was that with Chelsea under Mourinho, Drogba was expected to hold the long ball up front for the midfielders (Lampard, Joe Cole et al.) to have a crack at; while in Milan, the deep-lying creative genius of Andrea Pirlo linked to the further-up-the-pitch creativity of Kaka and Clarence Seedorf to create chances for Sheva. Both tactics work, it was just that Drogba was better than Sheva at Mourinho’s style of play.

Shevchenko really had everything. Pace, strength, headers, skill, control, temperament, poaching ability… even a mean free-kick. He had everything that would have suited him to every league in the world, and he would have suited excellently to the Chelsea of Ranieri or even Scolari. It’s just that in Mourinho’s Chelsea, Drogba, with his superhuman strength and ability to hold the ball off three defenders, was a better fit.

Adn yet, Premiership-watchers will remember Sheva as little more than a failure. And he deserves better. He is a winner. And who knows, he might do well again at Milan. Here’s praying for that.