Watching the North London Derby on the weekend got me to thinking about José Mourinho. He has that effect on people, still. It often doesn’t matter about the game with Mourinho. It becomes his show to manipulate and star in.
Take Sunday. After a tepid performance and a 2-1 loss to Arsenal, Mourinho came out and gave one of his performances in the post game. Despite the fact that Spurs had only managed one shot on goal prior to the 70th minute of the game, he blamed referee Michael Oliver’s decision to award a (probably correct) penalty for the loss.
He said Oliver looked tired, actually. Mourinho can afford the fine.
The problem with this show is that it’s all becoming a bit predictable. It’s like watching Season 6 of Homeland. You once enjoyed watching Carrie stop taking her pills, sleep with a suspect, barely stop a terrorist plot that only came as close to succeeding because of her screw ups then somehow getting promoted for it, but there comes a point where it all becomes a bit much.
The only thing missing from Mourinho’s press conferences these days is a laugh track.
And, just like Homeland, it becomes difficult to remember that the show was once brilliant.
It was. I’m talking about Jose, not Homeland (watch Season 1 then move on). Long before The Special One was a trope, it was a description. He really was the best manager in the world for the better part of a decade.
It’s a couple years old now, but a great look at Mourinho’s evolution can be found in Jonathon Wilson’s book The Barcelona Inheritance. It’s ironic, really, that the best insights of the book (which might be Wilson’s most readable, if you’re looking for something for the bedside table) are about a guy who was really only briefly at Barcelona, early in his career.
Wilson pains a picture of the ultimate outsider – the translator – using the rejection of Barcelona to fuel his entire managerial philosophy moving forward.
When you view Mourinho through that lens he makes so much more sense. Mourinho is a reactionary force. He created the anti-Barcelona at Porto, Inter and Chelsea. He’s tried to do the same, to less success, at United, Chelsea again and Spurs, with Real Madrid in between representing the top of a mountain he’s been descending ever since.
The problem with this is twofold.
Firstly, can you really exist solely as a negative? If you wrap your identity up into what you are not, eventually you fail in that you are nothing.
Mourinho is reactionary to everything and everyone. That worked for a while, but eventually the world caught on and started to adjust.
Which leads us to the second point: Mourinho hasn’t evolved either tactically, or personality wise.
With the latter, it’s a bit difficult to paint yourself as the ultimate outsider when you are among the most famous people on the planet. He fails to understand the power dynamic that he has with his players. Techniques to motivate and drive players to be better that worked 15 years ago just don’t anymore. At least not with him.
When it comes to the tactics, he’s not much different than any other manager stuck in the past trying to make an outdated system work for the modern game.
And, there’s just nothing special about that.