Will Mourinho be ‘found out’ at Spurs?

On Wednesday night, Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford – the place where he was, rightly, last dismissed from a job.

The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ (although it was 2004 when he uttered that term, so maybe he gets a pass on that now?) is now the manager of north London club, Tottenham Hotspur.

In recent years, Spurs had been punching well above their weight thanks to Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine had endured a transfer-less summer window in 2018 to then Continue reading

Jose Mourinho’s arrival raises questions for Moussa Sissoko

Sissoko Title

When Jose Mourinho was appointed manager of Tottenham Hotspur following the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, it raised many questions what the Portuguese maestro would do with this talent laden Spurs squad.

While it’s obvious the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli will be an integral part of Mourinho’s plans, it’ll be fascinating to see how he handles some of the other players who aren’t guaranteed starters. One such player whose fortunes are up in the air is Moussa Sissoko.

Sissoko’s arrival at Tottenham just over three years ago might have set the stage for future drama, as the Frenchman and his agent Bakari Sanogo navigated a last-minute reversal in negotiations between the then-Newcastle midfielder, Everton, and Tottenham on the final day of the transfer deadline. After Newcastle were relegated and Sanogo’s talks with Chelsea and Tottenham dragged on, Everton agreed to Sissoko’s price tag and thought they’d closed the deal – until Tottenham signed him instead.

After that dramatic entrance, however, Sissoko got down to business. Proving himself under Pochettino’s guidance to be a very handy contributor, especially in the last 18 months, and always fulfilling his role wholeheartedly, the imposing player’s energy, work rate and athleticism appeared a good fit for Mourinho’s counter punching approach.

Sissoko’s performance with the Spurs also got him called back up to France’s reigning champion national team after their 2018 World Cup win. Discussing his “return to favour” with the France’s Le Parisien in September, the Frenchman attributed his turnaround to spending far more time as a central midfielder and to gaining confidence over the course of several matches at the start of the year. He even gave his agent a shoutout, saying Bakari Sanogo has helped him see where he can improve.

The fact Sissoko’s so versatile was another reason for optimism, as he gives his new manager plenty of tactical flexibility as to how best deploy him, for he can play in a variety of midfield roles and formations and even at full back if need be.

Having not started Mourinho’s first game in charge against West Ham and heard the former Manchester United coach’s comments, though, it certainly looks like Sissoko faces an uphill battle to convince his new manager of what he brings to the team. “When I see Moussa, he is a very good player, but he is very different than my needs. I need that stability from Dier and the kid to move the ball faster, also positionally and also to find the attacking players in the positions we want,” explained Mourinho.

Sissoko, however, has faced his fair share of criticism and setbacks, so he’ll be eager to rise to the challenge and prove his worth. Possessing a good range of attributes, there’s certainly a lot Sissoko can offer.

To begin with his defensive output, and the man who’s learnt so much under the tactically sophisticated tutelage of Pochettino is a real asset in this regard. Full of energy and intensity in his approach, he does a top job of making life uncomfortable for his enemies. A keen presser who’s always on the lookout for triggers to arise such as an opponent receiving back to goal, in an open body posture, in wide areas or if they are inheriting a poor pass, Sissoko pounces to get at his targets. In doing so, this ensures they can’t easily turn him or enjoy much time on the ball, which impacts their ability to execute.

Factor in his hulking strength, speed and relentlessness to win back the ball, plus how he angles his pressure to cut off pass routes behind him, and it’s easy to see why he’s so competent here.

Image 1 - Sissoko's smartly angled pressing
Sissoko smartly angled pressing

The same goes for his counterpressing, where he hunts down the ball after Tottenham lose it. This subsequently gives the opponent minimal time to assess options while giving Tottenham a great chance of recovering possession high against spread out teams who are preparing for a transition of their own.

When it comes to settling back into a mid or low block, Sissoko’s shown how efficiently he stays in shape, shifts laterally, drops back in unison, marks opponents in his zone or steps out to press.

Image 2 - Great covering behind when his centre back steps out
Great covering behind when his centre back steps out

Moreover, by communicating with his colleagues, this has seen him crossover marking duties well when opposition players perform rotations around him.

A manful competitor in aerial duels too, the intimidating 187 cm enforcer acquits himself admirably in these duels by using his explosive leap, capacity to read the ball’s flight and balance.

Although he can sometimes be overzealous in his attempts to win back possession, with his timing being off on occasion, it’s been pleasing to see his intent to force turnovers and get stuck in.

Sissoko’s work on the attacking side of things accompanies his stopping efforts nicely. Catching the eye most keenly with his ball carrying prowess, his powerful forward surges are always a highlight, with these seeing him place backlines under pressure and lure opponents out of shape to get at backlines. So quick and hard to push off the ball, this means he often rides challenges sternly and draws fouls in key areas.

If inheriting possession in tight spaces, the way he protects the ball by getting his body between the man and the ball and uses his arms and shoulders, gives him a good platform to spin away or hold up the ball while he waits for a viable option.

To switch the focus over to his passing, and the French international typically keeps things simple most of the time to get the ball into the feet of Spurs’ more attackingly talented players. If the situation arises he can, however, play some more expansive passes, such as penetrative line breaking passes, crafty through balls or switches of play.

Image 3 - Wicked line breaking pass
Wicked line breaking pass

Tying everything together with his movement, Sissoko’s quality in this compartment allows him to make space for his colleagues and find openings for himself. In terms of manufacturing room for his teammates, he’s excellent at moving to open up passing lanes and pinning markers so his mates can exploit unoccupied spaces.

Image 4 - Sissoko neatly drawing two men
Sissoko neatly drawing two men

Image 5 - Sissoko pinning his man to help free up his teammate out wide
Sissoko pinning his man to help free up his teammate out wide

On an individual level, he embarks on some damaging runs into the channels and into the box, which are so hard to track, plus supports attacks in wider and central areas by forming 5v4 and 4v3 numerical superiorities to help bypass their foes.

Image 6 - Forming a 4v3 as he serves as the free man down the channel
Forming a 4v3 as he serves as the free man down the channel

Image 7 - Sissoko being the free man as Spurs form a 4v3
Sissoko being the free man as Spurs form a 4v3

Image 8 - Sissoko brilliant forward run to exploit the space
Sissoko brilliant forward run to exploit the space

Image 9 - Quality run in behind as he places huge pressure on the opposition
Quality run in behind as he places huge pressure on the opposition

Image 10 - Sissoko finding space well
Sissoko finding space well

By the numbers from the last five seasons, his 2.24 dribbles per game, 1.93 progressive runs pg, 1.65 touches inside the box pg, 4.14 accurate final third passes pg at 80%, 3.42 interceptions pg, 1.15 tackles pg, 4.1 free ball pick ups pg and 2.6 ball recoveries pg demonstrate his solid two-way contribution.

While it’ll be a tough ask to replicate his amazing form from Spurs’ memorable run to the Champions League final last campaign, it was encouraging to see him gain some minutes in his team’s 4-2 victory over Olympiakos this week.

Determined and always willing to do his part for the benefit of the team, the experienced 30-year-old will relish every chance to endear himself to Mourinho even if the Portuguese whizz may take some convincing.

Tottenham will be Jose Mourinho’s biggest risk as a manager

Jose Mourinho has more or less always managed one of the biggest teams in the world. Real Madrid of course comes to mind and then there was Manchester United. Chelsea was another at the time when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich pumped a bottomless pit into the club. And so Mourinho going to Tottenham asks lots of questions and one of those is that he is about to take on his biggest risk but most exciting one of his career.

The Tottenham job reminds one of when the Portuguese joined Inter Milan over a decade ago. In that Inter are a big name in Italian football much like Tottenham remain a big name in English football. Though Mourinho went to Inter and completely changed their history by winning the Champions League and other titles the biggest difference is that he arrived at a club who were already champions. Tottenham have not lifted the league title since 1961.

This is what makes Mourinho being in the dug out at Tottenham so special. He is at a club that perhaps he wouldn’t have dreamed of managing say five years ago- and that of course is credit to Mauricio Pochettino.

Mourinho’s task for the rest of the season will simply be a top half finish. The first objective is not to be 14th come the end of the weekend. The second will be to move up to the top half of the season and the third will be European qualification. One can sense that owner Daniel Levy would just be happy at this stage for the club to finish in a Europa League position.

So how might Mourinho fare at Tottenham? Well the omens look good and bad. Firstly Mourinho has proven time and again that he is a serial winner. Everywhere he goes his clubs win trophies. Though Manchester United became the first club where he was unable to bring a league title and that seems very unlikely that he will do that at Tottenham. Liverpool and Manchester City simply seem to strong and Mourinho doesn’t stay at clubs too long. The contract that he has signed at Tottenham is to 2023.

But progress in the league and beating the big teams together with cup runs and wins is going to be the long term objective. At the end of the day for all the good football that came out of Pochettino’s side he won nothing with the club, the hope will be that Mourinho will bring countless trophies with him.

For now Daniel Levy is more than happy to have Mourinho as manager and likewise. They can be both ruthless, but at the same time when we look at the history of Mourinho’s spending and that Tottenham under Levy haven’t always spent the tens of millions that Mourinho will require there could well be friction between the two men.

For football fans though Mourinho joining Tottenham is massive news and fascinating at the same time, roll on Saturday afternoon when he will manage his first game away to West Ham who have their own problems.

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Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League – and Tottenham job could define the rest of his career

In the end, it was all over rather quickly. Following a day of rumours suggesting that his position was under threat, Mauricio Pochettino parted ways with Tottenham late on Tuesday night. Just eleven hours later the club had confirmed that Jose Mourinho would be the man replacing the Argentinian at the helm.

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Mauricio Pochettino is sacked as Tottenham manager- is it the right decision?

Tottenham have sacked Mauricio Pochettino after a nightmare start to the season has seen the club down in 14th place.

Fans have been left gutted by the decision even though it was clear that frustrations were growing with the Argentine coach. But this is still the same man that changed the clubs fortunes around where they finally stood out of rivals Arsenal shadow and became a proper top 4 side. It was a time where the club found consistency and had found a natural flow to their game. Finally they were not doing things in a ‘spursy’ way but in a way which frightened their opponents and it was clear that the club were playing their best football in a generation.

This all came to ahead when Tottenham made the Champions League final and for many fans they couldn’t have imagined this would happen in their wildest dreams and there was dreamlike Roy of the Rovers style matches to get them to the final. Who can forget the epic 2nd leg matches against Manchester City and Ajax were Spurs looked dead and buried but somehow came back?

The utter joy and glory of seeing Pochettino on the pitch in Amsterdam with club owner Daniel Levy will remain in the memory as Tottenham confirmed their participation in the final. At that point it was about reaching their own personal Everest. The problem was that there were many problems behind the scenes.

It is clear that Levy and Pochettino did not get along and other stories are bound to come out in the next few weeks and months, it’s quite possible that Pochettino had also fallen out with some players by this point. He also had the body language over the last few weeks that suggested his future lay elsewhere.

It didn’t help when on the eve of the Champions League final Pochettino spoke about leaving the club if they were to win the trophy. In truth this would have made Levy livid given that who leaves a club on £8.5m a year? And in sacking Pochettino with 3 years left on his contract Levy will be paying him out just over £25m.

Ex-Tottenham players such as Gary Lineker have spoken out about the decision and condemned it saying that the club will not find anyone better- and he could be right. Though at the end of the day for all of their good wins and wonderful football Spurs did not win a trophy and surely at the end of the day for progression you need a trophy.

Trophies is the reason that Jose Mourinho has been installed as the favourite to take over the club. Mourinho always brings silverware but as we’ve seen in the past few years he can also bring a very negative effect to players and coaching staff. His burn outs at both Chelsea and Manchester United have sadly become the stuff of legend. One can already see a relationship of friction between Mourinho the chequebook and Levy. Still before it went wrong for Mourinho at those clubs he had won the league for Chelsea and the Europa League for United- he has a winning mentality and maybe that is what Tottenham need in this moment.

As for Pochettino in all honesty he needs some time away from the game to readjust and get his hunger back.He is a good manager but seemed a little burnt out and maybe this decision will make sense in the long term. In solely footballing terms Pochettino seems to have done very little wrong and the decision to sack him in that case is bizarre if we look at his whole record for the club. But apart from the amazing run in the Champions League Tottenham have not had a good 2019, indeed they have not won away from home since January- a top 4 side cannot have such a record.

The next few weeks will be fascinating to see how it turns out for the club and the world will be watching.

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Can Inter Milan upset Juventus and win their first Serie A title in 10 years?

No Inter Milan fan even in their worst nightmares could have predicted the fall of the club after Jose Mourinho upped his sticks and left the club in the summer of 2010 for Real Madrid. Now they are dreaming again almost a decade later.

Back in 2010 Inter under Mourinho’s infamous dogs of war and arguably his most successful period as a football coach not only won the league title but also completed for the first time in Italian football history the triple. That is the league title (Scudetto), the Italian cup and the creme of them all the Champions League. Indeed it was Inter’s first triumph in Europe since 1965. It all felt like a dream, but it was reality. Not only were Inter the champions of Italy but the champions of Europe.

Inter had finally stepped out of AC Milan and Juventus’ shadow as a club to be reckoned with and then Mourinho left and rather quickly Inter’s fortunes disappeared. It was as if by reaching the top of the mountain the only way was down. To add salt into the wounds Milan their eternal nemesis would win the league the following the year.

Since then countless coaches have come and gone and whilst Inter have always been there and thereabouts they have never looked like recapturing that glory at least domestically until this season. It has been a decade dominated by Juventus and their 8 in a row titles.

This season Inter have started superbly, losing just one game so far in Serie A inevitably to Juventus and the grand old lady remain their biggest obstacle to picking up their first title in what will be 10 years. But can Inter do it?

With the international break upon us Inter are just one point behind Juventus with 31 and that has been achieved out of a maximum points total of 36. In short in most seasons Inter would be in 1st place with a healthy lead. But there looms always the threat of Juventus.

Inter have a 7 point lead over 3rd place Lazio which is massive and Inter should be able to finish at least 2nd this season. But only winning the league will do and this team does have the tools to do it. Headed by Romelu Lukaku the Belgian has found a new lease of life after going a little stale at his former club Manchester United and he has already scored 9 goals this season. Even the great Cristiano Ronaldo only has 5 so far for Juve.

But Inter also have quality in their ranks such as Stefano Sensi who has already scored 3 goals from midfield and assisted in another two. In Antonio Conte Inter have a very successful coach the one who masterminded so many Juventus league titles, everything looks in place.

Can Inter go that extra mile and stop another Juventus win? This title looks like it will go down to the wire which, if anything, will be great for Italian football rather than the normal procession.

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Why Jose Mourinho should never have been sacked as Manchester United manager

Since Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United in 2013 it has been quite a nightmarish ride for the fans who were so used to seeing multiple successes, good players and great games at the club.

It’s been a shock for United at how many plans have failed since Ferguson left. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all tried to put United back on the map. But the club are certainly going backwards albeit with a certain glimmer of light, which just about still shines in the halls of Old Trafford.

In the 6 years since United have won 3 trophies, 2 of them the Europa League and League Cup were won with Jose Mourinho in charge, and he also led the club to 2nd place in the league- their best ever finish post Ferguson. One wonders if United made a huge error sacking Mourinho? Of course at the time it did look like the best option. United were losing every week and misery seemed to be engulfed with the club. For reasons we will most probably find out in a players book Mourinho had lost the dressing room, but how is that different from the other coaches who have managed at the club.

When David Moyes arrived at Everton, then defender Rio Ferdinand admitted that he had no respect for the ex-Everton manager, this before Moyes had properly overseen his first game. Van Gaal seemed like an odd appointment, a brilliant one had it been the 1990s, but in 2014? The Dutchman was well past his sell by date, he lost some games you would have expected United to win but he did win the FA Cup as a parting gift. Solskjaer started well but has been a nightmare coach for the club, some of his buys have been inspired and he wants to do his best, but he simply looks like a small fish in a vast ocean.

Mourinho needed a clear out of players if he was to stay, and the one negative you could say about him is the special one is pretty useless at rebuilding teams and leaving some sort of legacy for the next manager. But what he does deliver are trophies, he just needs the sort of players that will train hard and work hard for him, that wasn’t going to be the case at United.

Records of Manchester United managers since Sir Alex Ferguson:

David Moyes win rate= 52.9%

Louis van Gaal win rate= 52.4%

Jose Mourinho win rate= 58.3%

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer win rate (so far) = 51.1%

Lyon in crisis as they sack Sylvinho after just 141 days in charge

Lyon have sacked coach Sylvinho after just 141 days in charge as the club have made their worst start to a Ligue 1 season in 23 years.

The news of Sylvinho’s sacking was a shock given that he had just taken the job in the summer but Lyon have been very poor by their standards in the league. The problem for the ex-Arsenal player was that he did not have a resume to back up that everything will work out well, this was his first proper managerial job- and to be fair it showed.

Tactics went out of the window and chaos ensued as he directed the defenders not to cross the halfway line and then wouldn’t let star players such as Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele play together.

Pre-season results were also poor barring an away win against Arsenal. Although Lyon looked to be PSG’s strongest challengers at the beginning of the season as they opened up the campaign with 2 wins, scoring 9 goals and conceding none, that has dramatically changed since then.

Lyon have won just 2 games all season and at the time of Sylvinho’s sacking the club are in 14th place with 9 points a huge 12 points behind PSG. But has the club jumped the gun and not thought through this properly?

In truth given time Sylvinho may well have found the right system and there has been encouraging moments but keeping him would mean giving up European football for next season and seeing the club possibly finish out of the top 10, that would be too much for a proud team like Lyon. It does seem early to pull the trigger but a wider thought would have been taken on, and this could be the right decision. For Sylvinho this will come as a big blow, but at the end of the day Lyon could well be to blame. Is it correct to appoint a manager with no first tier experience in the game? That is why sporting director Juninho could be next to go.

The next question turns to who will replace Sylvinho? Laurent Blanc has been made the favourite and that could be a good solid choice. Arsene Wenger’s name has appeared once again, but the former Arsenal great looks unlikely to coach again, although he has admitted that he misses the game. Another name being linked is Jose Mourinho, with the money the club have maybe he would be tempted, but in the past he has dismissed coaching in Ligue 1.

We should know the outcome in the next 10 days or so as Lyon try and save their season.

 

 

Jose Mourinho return would be the mark of Real Madrid’s lack of direction

Zinedine Zidane was supposed to be the solution. Instead, the Frenchman is starting to look like at least one of the causes of Real Madrid’s recent problems. The capital club might be sat at the top of Spanish Liga table, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story of their season so far.

Back-to-back draws against Atletico Madrid and Club Brugge, with Real Madrid fighting back from 2-0 down at home to claim a point against the Belgians, have piled the pressure on Zidane. Now, it seems he might be just one or two bad results away from being sacked such is the level of speculation around his position.

Potential replacements have been discussed. Xabi Alonso’s name has been put forward, with the former Real Madrid midfielder currently a coach at Real Sociedad. Max Allegri has also been mentioned, with the Italian coach currently out of work after leaving Juventus at the end of last season.

The Spanish press seem convinced, however, that Jose Mourinho is the man most likely so succeed Zidane, returning to the Santiago Bernabeu six years after his first stint there came to an end. He is apparently the man club president Florentino Perez sees as the solution to Real Madrid’s immediate problems.

Mourinho, of course, has pedigree. While his first spell at Real Madrid ended acrimoniously, he did enjoy success there, beating Pep Guardiola’s great Barcelona side to a league title. The Portuguese is a two-time Champions League winner and has won championships in four different countries. But his return to Real Madrid would be a mark of the club’s lack of direction.

He would be a plaster on a gaping wound. Mourinho showed in his last job as Manchester United manager that a toxic environment brings out the worst in him. By taking over at Real Madrid he would be stepping into an environment even more toxic than the one he left behind at Old Trafford nearly a year ago.

Real Madrid’s last three appointments have all been misguided. This time they must get it right. They must evoke the spirit of their 2010 appointment of Mourinho, when the Portuguese was the best manager in the European game, but avoid the man himself. Back then, Real Madrid waited to get the right man in. Perez must look back at that example in order to move forward.

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Rafa Benitez and Newcastle finally part ways, what next?

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In the end it was no surprise that Newcastle would let Rafa Benitez leave the club. It was a relationship that painfully never worked and it still seems a rather odd choice and turn of events that Benitez went to the Magpies in the first place.

Benitez’s 3 year reign ended this past weekend after he was critical of the board and was quoted as saying that he didn’t see a way forward for the club- he is right.

The Spaniard has been incredibly loyal to Newcastle, what other manager who has just come from Real Madrid takes over a team in the English Championship? After getting the Magpies promoted he simply wasn’t given the budget for Premier League football. At the same time he was able to keep the club up, but they still finished in the bottom half the table this season.

Benitez and club owner Mike Ashley just never got along and it usually came down to a power struggle about money. Benitez wanted experienced quality players whilst Ashley was happy to spend little but bring in youth so they could be sold for much higher rates, the exact strategy it seems that Monaco have adopted over the last few years.

Tick tock and with Benitez’s contract running out day by day, he refused to sign a one year extension and his reign is over. He was more or less loved by the fans and at the end of the day only wanted a transfer budget befitting a team that are trying to finish in the top half of the Premier League. Ashley just wanted a team that would survive in the Premier League. He still has that but for how much longer? And the rift between Ashley and the fans seems to have grown much wider.

So who is the favourite to take over at St. James’ Park? That name is Mikel Arteta currently the number 2 at Manchester City. Other names that have been mentioned are Claudio Ranieri, Gary Monk, David Moyes and Jose Mourinho. Perhaps Mourinho’s name doesn’t look right in that list but Mourinho is actually the second favourite to take the job given that Ashley may finally sell it to middle eastern billionaires, if that happens then even more change will happen for the Magpies.

As for Benitez he may just take a year off before looking at his options again, there is little doubt that he will be back with a major team again and perhaps will want to prove Newcastle wrong for letting him go.