Much has been talked about Mourinho’s tactics and his style of management during recent weeks and after his surprising line-up during the 0-0 draw against Manchester United on Monday evening, there has been many conversations and debates regarding the Portuguese’s tactical decisions and emphasis.
Let’s have a look at the obvious traits that we do know. Jose is a well known man manager, he draws the best from his players individually and creates belief, using his fine motivational skills before, during and after the game. He also has an eccentric personality, unpredictable, straight talking and will not hold back when approached by the media. Known to get underneath the skin of opposition managers and players alike, he uses these skills wisely to intermediate his opponents. He holds an enormous self belief and confidence, which reflects on to his players. We also know that Mourinho will always do what he feels best, this will sometimes mean doing something out of the normal, surprising or risky, which brings me to the core of this article, his tactics on Monday evening.
Of course the Blues hero has been heavily critisised for playing without a recognised striker, or with a false number nine as people call it. This style of play is favoured by the Spanish and often used by the National side and Barcelona. In my opinion I don’t really think you can describe Andre Schurrle as a ‘false number nine’, due to the fact that he has often played as a centre forward in previous seasons for his club. I feel that on Monday he had a particularly quiet game due to his decision making and the lack of intelligent runs, but he was also marked out of the game by a very strong and experienced centre half pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Schurrle found it tough to get in to the game and see any of the ball, perhaps pointing out the fact that he will most certainly be used more effectively as a winger, even though he has had experience of playing as a centre forward.
Mourinho wanted to trump his opponent and throw them off a little by picking this line-up, but he also had a tactical goal behind his decisions, he wanted to use a fluid, direct and mobile style of play perhaps mimicking the Spanish National team by using quick passing, interchanging and making intelligent runs in behind with the midfielders providing the cutting passes through the middle or over the top. Unfortunately, we did not provide the service well enough from deep, Lampard seemed a little quiet and Ramires tried hard to provide the deep telling passes, but needs to stick to his strengths and should not be attempting such passes. The tactic could have worked if everyone was playing to their strengths, but unfortunately there were a number of players under performing out there on Monday evening. With that and the fact that United defended so well and snuffed out any threat we could imagine up, it made it look as if Mourinho had set up for a draw and used a negative formation by picking five midfielders. I’m afraid to tell the critics, this was not the case. Of course, it was not a disaster to come away from Old Trafford with a draw at this stage of the season, but I assure you that Mourinho wanted to win, he set his team up to win and although we won’t be seeing this particular line up again anytime soon, it was designed to get at United and confuse their defence, wear them down and get at them. All it was missing was the defence splitting pass, on another day if Lampard or Hazard for example did manage to find that pass, we could have been sat here praising Jose for an ingenious selection and calling him a tactical magician.
I was shocked not to see Lukaku line up against United after scoring a hat trick against them on the final day of last season, this was set up for him to storm this match. But the other thing that bothered me was leaving Juan Mata out. With the attacking style he wanted to go for, it was clearly missing a Mata figure. He may not be fast and furious which is what Jose seems to prefer, but with fast and fluid wingers either side of him and a similar style striker in front of him, this is the perfect substance that will allow Mata to be a success. He will keep the ball, use it and make that important game changing final pass over the top or through the middle, there are not many players around that can find a final pass like he can and his assists last season proved this point. I believe you need Mata as the pinnacle for any team picked and any style used, he simply creates chances with his sublime passing and he can also finish a chance. Juan Mata = goals, regardless of his ability to be fast and fluid, he needs to be picked to provide that balance, if he has the fluid and direct players alongside him making the runs, then this is a potential deadly combination.
I don’t believe that Jose does not rate Mata, as some people are suggesting, and I do feel that he fully intends to use Mata in an important role. Perhaps he was taking in to account the huge amount of matches that Mata played last season and wants Oscar to be equally as important as Mata for when the Spaniard does need to rest or is injured. The Blues heavily relied on him last season and this proved to be a problem in his absence.
Next match I think we will see a return to the normal formation and tactics, not because the media criticised, not because the supporters got on his back, not even because the formation did not work, simply because Mourinho wants to try something else, he may well use it again in the future, the players might perform better during it and it could then be deemed a success, we shall see.
Simon Phillips – News Editor
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