Jose Mourinho’s style of play has once again come under heavy scrutiny following a series of lackluster displays from Tottenham Hotspur this season.
The Portuguese has often been associated with success; winning trophies and establishing a winning mentality within the clubs he has managed.
However, in recent seasons, Mourinho’s brand of play has been labelled as “anti-football” and many critics have stated that the 56-year-old manager has completely lost his edge in the modern game.
Spurs suffered their 9th loss of the season on Saturday against title contenders Manchester City in a demoralizing 3-0 defeat at the Etihad. Without showing much attacking impetus, Mourinho’s team were once again made to pay for their defensive frailties, a feature that has been hampering the squad since the start of the 2020/2021 campaign.
Many critics have cited that Mourinho’s style of play is diminishing the quality within the Tottenham team and might see them missing out on the coveted top four spot. In recent matches, most notably in Spurs’ 1-0 defeats to both Brighton and Chelsea, the manner in which they were defeated brought to the forefront again whether Mourinho’s type of football was worth investing time, patience and finances in.
Though Spurs were knocked out of the FA Cup, they still have a chance to win a trophy this season, having qualified for the Carabao Cup final where they will face off against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium. If they win, it would be Tottenham’s first trophy since 2008, when they won the League Cup by defeating Chelsea 2-1 under the guidance of then manager Juande Ramos.
Spurs may well be able to shut the haters up by finally adding another trophy to their cabinet, but at what cost? The style of play that Mourinho idealizes is not the most attractive, neither is it entertaining to watch.
This was a hotly debated topic during his tenure at Manchester United, where he was said to be erasing the very fabric of the club and going against what United stood for as a team. Though he won the League Cup and the Europa League title, Mourinho was accused of failing to adhere to the attacking principles of the historic Manchester club. His negative style of play brought resentment from fans, pundits and ex-players alike and despite being the most successful manager at the club since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, his time at Old Trafford will mostly be remembered for negative football.
To overlook his accomplishments as manager simply because he plays a brand of football that is unattractive does seem a bit hypocritical in the grand scheme of things. Yes, part of the reason football is popular is because of its electricity and high intensity but what is the aim of the sport? Are teams remembered only for playing attractive football or are they remembered for winning trophies?
Take into account two teams that represent opposite spectrums of this argument. FC Barcelona and Arsenal. Between the years of 2008 and 2012, Barcelona fielded, arguably, the best team in the history of the game. Why? Because they won 14 trophies in those four seasons under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, who became the most successful coach in Barcelona’s history. While doing this, they played a style of football that would go on to revolutionize the game, a style of play that was simply mesmerizing to watch. On the contrary, Arsenal was dubbed the “Barcelona of the Premier League”, because their style of play was akin to that of the Catalonian club. But how many trophies did Arsenal win during that time period? Zero. No one will write down their names in history and quite frankly, only if you were actively watching the English Premier League during those times will that Arsenal team be remembered.
Jose Mourinho has won trophies at every single club he has managed. His Inter Milan team, who became the first Italian side to win the treble in 2010, became popular for their counter attacking prowess. His Real Madrid team broke the La Liga record for the number of goals scored in a single season by netting 121 times and securing a record of 100 points. He became the first manager to win league trophies in England, Italy and Spain and has the sole title as the only manager to have the longest unbeaten home run in Premier League history with 78 games, while at Chelsea, spanning almost a decade.
His tactics have never changed, what has not remained the same though is the quality of the squads. The teams he managed at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid cannot be compared to teams he took charge of in Manchester and Tottenham, with all due respect to those two teams. In order for Mourinho’s style of play to be perfectly executed, he needs the right quality of players to bring his ideas to life and unfortunately for Mourinho, he has not been able to achieve that during his last two managerial stints.
Love him or hate him, one of the most polarizing figures in football has created a style of play unique to him and he has reaped success from it. He has become one of the best managers in the history of the sport for a reason and that is simply because he wins anywhere he goes.
It has been proven, once Mourinho is backed by the club’s hierarchy in the transfer market to build a squad in his vision, a Mourinho-led team can dominate anyone.