Mourinho’s Lexicon of Love
So much of our footballing lexicon originates from the mouth of Jose Mourinho, it is sometimes difficult to imagine what both our game and language would be without him.
March 7th, 2014
‘Special one’, omelettes and eggs, Arsene ‘the voyeur’ are all expressions and concepts that are now so much a part of our game it seems barely possible that they could be unsaid.
But one Mourinho-ism more than any other has stuck to English football like glue.
“Tottenham might as well have put the team bus in front of their goal,” he said – of Spurs’ defensive performance in a Premier League match back in September 2004.
And, lo, a staple of the amateur tactical pundit was born.
There is a huge irony in the fact that, over all that has followed in Mourinho’s glittering career since, it is he who is accused perhaps more than any others of ‘parking the bus’.
His sides are claimed to be defensive because of stingy defences and a reliance upon that modern invention, the holding midfielder.
And that position, more than any other, is expected to loom large this weekend as Mourinho welcomes Tottenham back to Stamford Bridge for the first time in this, his second stint with the club.
Spurs’ assistant boss Les Ferdinand has made it clear what camp the north London club occupy when it comes to what Eric Cantona used to refer to as ‘the water carrier’.
“I know there’s a lot of talk about holding midfield players, and I’m always arguing with Tim (Sherwood) and Chris (Ramsey) about this and they agree,” said the former striker.
“I don’t like holding midfield players… the worst thing that happened in this league was Claude Makelele.”
If you assume Ferdinand’s statement is more than just jaw-dropping tactical naivety, in writing off one of the greatest players of the last 20 years in world football, then you might draw some conclusions about how Chelsea v Tottenham will play out.
Chelsea will undoubtedly come to the match with at least one, possibly two, deep-lying men.
The return to the club of Nemanja Matic promises to set the scene for the whole of what Mourinho insists will be a new era at Stamford Bridge.
To call him defensive completely misses the point of everything he is about. Big, mobile, intelligent, and with the ability to sweep up loose balls and redistribute with clinical precision – Matic is the true inheritor of what we now call ‘The Makelele Role’.
He is the man in the side who turns defence into attack.
Only in a Mourinho side do people call that ‘negative’ (who ever applies that tag to Yaya Toure – one of the league’s best at doing much the same thing?)
Spurs, if they follow Ferdinand’s lead, will presumably line up all for attack. Running wingers, big gaps in the middle, 4-4-2. How quaint.
It will be interesting to see how this tactical gambit will work against a Chelsea side now regularly demonstrating why the experts call them the fastest counter-attacking side in the league.
4-4-2 is a formation Mourinho loves to face more than any other. The fluid movement of his teams works its way into the very DNA of the set-up – creating havoc between the rigid lines, and causing damage on the break.
If Chelsea can make all that work against Tottenham, and it is always a big ‘if’ coming off the international break, then Spurs may be lamenting by the end of the day that they hadn’t spent more time understanding the words in that dictionary of Mourinho’s.