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'You won't be seeing Kane at left-back' - the reinvention of Jose Mourinho

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New Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho

New Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho

Pushing buttons: ‘Are you Dele, or Dele’s brother?’ asked Jose Mourinho of Tottenham attacker Dele Alli after their first training session this week. Photo: Getty Images

Pushing buttons: ‘Are you Dele, or Dele’s brother?’ asked Jose Mourinho of Tottenham attacker Dele Alli after their first training session this week. Photo: Getty Images

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New Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho

It was a flash of vintage Jose Mourinho, that has marked out his man-management for most of his career.

In one of the first of many individual meetings with his new players, the Tottenham Hotspur manager - odd as that still sounds - had a question for Dele Alli. It was, of course, designed for a greater reaction than the midfielder's immediate answer.

"Are you Dele, or Dele's brother?" Mourinho said, summing up the midfielder's hugely disappointing year and general sense of decline in a single question.

"I'm Dele," came the response. "So play like Dele," Mourinho said. "Be Dele. The real Dele."

More important to that and absolutely everything at Spurs, however, might be whether Jose is going to be Jose. Or, at least, that vintage Jose with some of the attributes that are less effective in the modern game.

The great question about his new job, and his career, is whether Mourinho has sufficiently embraced football's new tactical trends; whether this is really Jose Mourinho 2.0. It is a question, to be fair, that he has asked of himself and one he invited by talking about at length on Thursday.

The ultimate failure at Manchester United clearly got to him in a way the disastrous 2015-'16 season at Chelsea never did. It was like he was in denial after that sacking at Stamford Bridge, unable to accept the growing criticism of his methods, and too hasty in trying to prove everyone wrong. He thereby took the United role too quickly, and at a time when the tactics of the game were evolving so quickly as well.

It was why that job ended as it did, and as many expected. It is also why it led to something of an epiphany in his 11 months out. Mourinho is too intelligent to make "the same mistakes" indefinitely. He realised the need for a reconsideration, but went further than that.

"I went really deep in that analysis," the Portuguese said. "That was a great thing. "I am humble enough to try to analyse my career, Manchester last year, the problems and the solutions. I always thought that these 11 months were not a waste of time. These 11 months were months to think, to analyse, to prepare and anticipate things... I realise that during my career I made mistakes."

Those who know Mourinho say he's been doing more than analysing those mistakes. He's been asking people from his time at Old Trafford for their honest opinion on how he came across, what they thought went wrong. He's been studying all of the modern trends in the game, canvassing opinion.

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It is why he felt the need to employ new assistants, and why that is so important. He has different opinions among his team, different perspectives. He has evidently been studying a lot of the criticism of his methods, too, as revealed with some highly conspicuous comments.

"You are not going to see Harry Kane playing left-back, that's for sure," he quipped. Mourinho denies, however, that he is reinventing himself. "I don't go as far. I'm not reinventing myself. You know, I thought about my career. I thought about my evolution. I try to define new targets for my career. I was very selective."

But how selective? How much Mourinho has changed is going to be the most relevant issue in this Spurs season now. There are, after all, deeper questions to go with his deeper personal analysis.

Pointedly

Most pointedly, when a coach has reached his peak in an entirely different tactical era, how easy is it to learn the trends of another era? That is all the more important a question now, when the tactics of the game are evolving at a faster rate than ever, due to the very sophistication seeping ever deeper into it.

A number of sports science advances have ensured the game is faster than ever before, too. The football that reigns now is rigorously co-ordinated attacking moves, executed at high speed, themselves combining the latest ideas in possession, pressing and transition.

Can Mourinho himself get up to speed with this, so quickly? Is it even possible for any 56-year-old manager to change so much at this point in his career? This is a coach who has effectively stated that one of his core beliefs is having the ball means having the potential for a mistake.

Has he really been so proactive as to make himself a proactive manager, in the manner that Mauricio Pochettino was and this Spurs team is used to? Mourinho did admit it can be difficult for a coach to change his football 'DNA'.

"I have principles that I will keep for the rest of my career and I cannot change. One of these principles is I don't like to lose."

That has led to a lot of his less expansive football. On the other hand, he did stress the football has to fit the squad - a squad which he considers exceptional - and that would be attacking football.

"I am not here to make dramatic changes," Mourinho said. "Very similar to before. Of course I am going to try to add some details and sometimes details can make the difference.

"The style of play has to be always adapted not just to the club culture but especially to the players' qualities. You know, the fans they must be happy. The players they must be happy, and I must be also happy.

"This is a process. I'm going to try to make some tactical ticks, if you can say that, not incredible changes, I'm not going now to try to be Einstein, but I'm going to try to make the players play the way I want them to play.

"Offensive football, yes, but winning matches, not offensive football and don't win a match for 10 or 11 months. But yes, attacking football."

It is why his first formation, alone, will be fascinating. It will tell us a lot. It will be the first response to the biggest question of all: what kind of Jose we're going to see, and whether it's a new Jose.

© Independent News Service

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