Nothing seems to rankle with Jose Mourinho quite like the notion that he is a defender’s coach, with a safety-first nature producing unadventurous football.
‘Depends on the team,’ replied the Tottenham manager when asked to consider whether their free-scoring start to the season might silence some of his critics.
‘They cannot say that about my Real Madrid team who scored 121 goals in the league,’ added Mourinho. ‘If they say that about the way to finish second with Manchester United or last season, trying to get a way to finish in the top six and be in the Europa League, they are right.’
Jose Mourinho is said to have a safety-first nature, producing unadventurous football
Spurs have scored 31 goals in the first 10 games of the season, with 19 of them coming in the last four outings.
‘At Real Madrid, I had amazing, amazing attacking players and we managed to build the team in a certain way,’ said Mourinho.
‘I have to be honest and say we have lots of good attacking players here, but we need to give stability to the team because the team need stability at the back to feel solid, confident, to be able to have a go. So we need to find that balance.’
Sometimes it feels as if he is wary of embracing an exception and proving the rule. But the truth is that Mourinho has always built his teams from a strong and organised defensive base to create freedom for the forwards. His reputation was cast when he arrived at Chelsea and won the Premier League title in his first season, losing only once and conceding just 15 goals in 38 games.
However, the ‘special one’ disagrees and says that can’t be said for his Real Madrid team
Real Madrid scored 121 goals and won La Liga with 100 points in 2011-12 under Mourinho
Success was built on a strong defensive unit: a back four, shielded by Claude Makelele, with Petr Cech in goal, and the framework of his team lasted a decade.
How successful and how prolific his team will be depends on the attacking talent and he was not afraid to be unashamedly defensive if he thought he did not have the firepower.
At Real Madrid, when they scored 121 goals and won La Liga with 100 points in 2011-12, he had Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain at his disposal up front. Ronaldo scored 60 goals in all competitions, assisted by the creative forces of Kaka, Angel di Maria and Mesut Ozil. Benzema scored 32 and Higuain scored 26, despite starting only 28 games.
‘Let’s say that it is a team thing, it’s not just about individuals,’ said Mourinho, when invited to compare that vintage Real squad to Tottenham’s this season, front-loaded with attacking options.
While his current club, Tottenham, have scored 31 goals in the first 10 games of the season
Mourinho has strong attacking options with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Gareth Bale (above)
Spurs have Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Gareth Bale, Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn and Carlos Vinicius, who impressed on his debut against LASK in the Europa League on Thursday — not forgetting Erik Lamela and Dele Alli — and the goals are flowing.
Kane is already on 10 for the season. Son has nine in his last six appearances. Tonight, Burnley must try to stop them.
‘At the back, we need to improve details, that’s obvious,’ said Mourinho. ‘We are trying to find solutions and be organised. We are trying not to give space to the opponent. But you look to our squad and there is incredible quality and options from midfield to attack. Which attacking player is not playing well? Nobody. The team, the way we are playing, it is good fun to be an attacking player in our team.’
And that, whether you agree with him or not, is the reason he rejects the theory that he is a defender’s coach. He builds at the back and organises in an attempt to create space and freedom for the strikers.
At the moment, it looks promising.