How will Spurs play under Jose?What Mourinho can bring to Tottenham and the tactical changes he will make

Telegraph Sports 3 weeks ago

Everywhere Jose Mourinho goes he wins trophies. The pattern is: Mourinho turns up at a club who rapidly improve and win at least one trophy the same season or the next, the club enjoys two seasons of entertainment and success, before the third season in which Mourinho leaves the club adrift in mid-table, the players burned out and turned off. 

The Mourinho who galvanized and started revolutions at Porto and Chelsea was a younger man, while the tactics and coaching methods he innovated have become so commonplace they are now taught to the new generations of coaches. Most worryingly is that the elusive, impenetrable swagger and mystique he once relied upon to inspire players into battle may have been lost after ugly departures from Chelsea and Manchester United.

Spurs fans should allow themselves to get a little excited though - Mourinho is one of the greatest managers of all time. What will he bring to Spurs?

Strategy and system

Anyone expecting drastic renovations in how Spurs look on the pitch need to cool their jets - there aren't major differences between Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino's styles of play.

Mourinho has used a 4-4-2 diamond, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and variants of 3-5-2 at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Manchester United. Pochettino also loves a 4-2-3-1, has used a 4-3-3 often, played a 4-4-2 diamond for most of the season and has also employed a 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 in past. During Spurs' best Premier League finish under Pochettino of second in the 2016/17 season, the team switched between a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-1-2 during matches.

Formations and match tactics change from game to game but the system doesn't and there are massive similarities between Pochettino and Mourinho in this regard. Both managers seek to win games in transition, their teams are hard to break down and commit a lot of fouls in the middle of the pitch to break up play, and they press high hunting for mistakes before dropping behind half way and setting up a block.  

The difficulty is in getting players revved up week after week after mid-week to employ the frenetic intensity needed to carry out a high press effectively and this season it seems like Pochettino just hasn't been able to get the most out of his players. Daniel Levy is banking a lot of faith in Mourinho finding a way to motivate a group of players who look to have lost their fire.

How Spurs might look under Mourinho

We can expect to see Spurs line up as a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 diamond for the remainder of the season. Son Heung-min will attack wide left and be expected to defend in a midfield five, Harry Kane will start through the middle and be made to stay upfront instead of dropping into midfield as he has done at times this season, and whoever is most likely to win the ball high up the pitch will play wide right. Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela or Giovani Lo Celso are the options. Moussa Sissoko may even find himself out wide again.

Sissoko will most likely continue in central midfield as a ball-winning, box-to-box runner and may be partnered by either Tanguy Ndombele or Christian Eriksen in a deep play-making role, giving Dele Alli a job to do somewhere between midfielder and second striker. He will be encouraged to time late runs into the box to finish off attacks.

What Jose Mourinho's Spurs may look like
What Jose Mourinho's Spurs may look like

Eric Dier might find a way back into the side as a reincarnation of Claude Makelele if Mourinho opts for a holding player behind Alli and Eriksen, since the more creative players Mourinho puts in a team, the wider he makes the safety net. For every player allowed to experiment, Mourinho likes at least one to provide cover.

Dier also gives Mourinho the ability to switch between a back three and two during a match to get more players higher up the pitch, as Pochettino often used to.

Danny Rose or Ben Davies will play left-back, while Serge Aurier can relax in the knowledge he is one mistake away from never playing for Spurs again. Kyle Walker-Peters is likely to find his path to the first team blocked. Ryan Sessegnon is now trapped in purgatory between left-back (not his position) and left forward (doesn't really exist in a Mourinho team). 

It all sounds a lot like a Pochettino team, and this is where the problem lies. Mourinho's job isn't to reinvent the Premier League world of tactics, it's to get more out of this group of players, just like he did at Manchester United before it all fell apart.

Raising the levels

Pochettino hasn't suddenly stopped being a great coach, he just hasn't been getting performances or results out of his players. This can happen at the end of a cycle as the group grows numb to the ideas of their manager, and so a change may well be exactly what Spurs needed. 

Eriksen has been one of the most prolific creators of chances in the Premier League over the last few seasons but his desire to move in the summer has corresponded with a slump in form

Without Eriksen creating and Spurs in a narrow shape, Pochettino's team haven't offered enough going forward to beat teams and are naturally more vulnerable to attacks themselves. That leads to other players trying to do more to make up for the lack in quality, like Kane.

Pochettino's frustrations with a lack of investment in playing staff have been mirrored by Kane, whose numbers per 90 minutes are down on last season. In games against Newcastle and Everton he could often be found in midfield, trying to make things happen and forcing the spark that others are meant to provide for him, blunting Spurs' attack as a result.

Rather than rely on the misfiring Eriksen to create things behind the forwards, Mourinho may well turn to Lamela, a player who rarely threads a stunning through-ball but who works hard off the ball, can play across the pitch and is decent in transition. Think Salomon Kalou.

Defending from the front

Mourinho's Manchester United were terrible to watch at times because he placed so much focus on defence, with players discouraged from racing forwards in attack so as not to leave the team vulnerable. Spurs have much better central defenders and therefore a base from which to build, allowing for a little more forward thinking.

Creative players tend to be given a lot of defensive responsibility by Mourinho. Mesut Ozil, Joe Cole, Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba are four examples of individual talents who were made to curb their natural attacking style so as to benefit the group.

This strangling of flair and skill doesn't suddenly make the players any less effective though, as the trophy cabinets of all should attest, it's just that they must learn when to go off script. If their decision making doesn't match Mourinho's take on the game, coach and player fall out. Cole was a frighteningly talented, skillful 10 who Mourinho turned into a tireless wide midfielder and though we may have missed out on some entertaining YouTube compilations, Cole collected winners' medals.

"Straight away, he 'got' me," Cole told the Coaches Voice. "I mean, he cracked the whip with me a lot. And looking back, there were times when I was really mad with him, but he knew what he was doing." 

The supposedly workshy Ozil played in a Real Madrid side that won 100 points and scored a record 121 goals on route to beating Pep Guardiola's widely hailed Barcelona to the title. A plus for Spurs is they don't really even have any players who need free will coached out of them - Pochettino has assembled a side near-perfect for his successor.

None of this will work if Mourinho cannot forge the siege mentality he needs but Spurs are a club trying to punch up, and Mourinho suits that look far more than when trying to convince the world that Real Madrid or Manchester United are up against the wall. 

Mourinho knows what he's doing and if history is anything to go by, Spurs will really enjoy the next two seasons and hate the third. Will they mind if Mourinho brings home the trophies that eluded Pochettino?


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