Three things to look out for in Mourinho’s first match in charge of Tottenham
Because if there’s one thing the Portuguese guarantees, it’s drama. And we sure need that in the EPL this season. After all, thanks to Liverpool’s dominance and Manchester City’s ineptitude, there’s as much excitement in the EPL title race as there is watching…well, Mourinho-ball.
Yes, Mourinho’s teams play boring football, but the man himself is a treasure trove of comedic entertainment, both on the touchline and in press conferences. Just listen to what he had to say about his first day as Spurs manager.
Amazing pillows? Great beds? Expensive duvets? These are the kind of quirky soundbites only a manager like Mourinho can come up with.
Obviously, everyone will be watching the 56-year-old when he leads Spurs out against West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday.
And while nobody knows exactly what sort of drama will ensue, I’ve picked out three potential talking points to look out for in Mourinho’s return to the EPL.
1) Return of The Bus?
We all know what traditional Mourinho-ball entails – defensive and dour football that relies on niggly, tactical fouls to frustrate the opposition into submission. Then, when they least expect it, hitting them on the break, or via a well worked set-piece.
In football parlance, this tactic is often referred to as ‘Parking the Bus’. And over the years, Mourinho has proven himself to be not so much the bus conductor or driver, but the owner of the entire bus interchange itself.
The question is, did he bring his buses along with him over to Spurs? Or did he leave them all parked at Old Trafford? The answer will lie in the way he utilises his side’s key attacking talents in Son Heung Min, Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
If, for example, Mourinho deploys Son as a wing-back and Eriksen as a regista, with Alli supporting them as a half-back while Kane manfully toils alone up front as a defensive forward, then we’ll know for sure that the Bus has come to North London, and has bought season parking at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the next three years at least.
If, however, we see Spurs’ core attacking quartet (or quintet, if you count Lucas Moura or Erik Lamela in the group) be given the freedom to attack West Ham at will, then perhaps it’s an indication that Mourinho has decided to swap the conservative bus for a more destructive vehicle.
Will Mourinho continue to ‘Park the Bus’ with Spurs? Or will he employ tactic ‘Speeding PMDs’? We’ll find out on Saturday.
2) Angry, Angry Mourinho!
As mentioned earlier, Mourinho has a flair for the theatrical and dramatic. Some of his angry histrionics on the touchline in the past have become the stuff of legends and memes, and – rightly or wrongly – have been used to define him both as a person and as a manager.
But the 11-month break from football management appears to have calmed Mourinho down a little, based on how cheerful he appeared to be at his press conference.
Gone are his signature scowls and frowns. Gone, too, are the pointed barbs he used to make. Instead, what we saw was a Mourinho who smiled at the journalists, who laughed easily, and who even displayed his funny side by declaring that Spurs could win the title next season.
That could all change, however, once Mourinho gets a first-hand taste of the great evil that is VAR.
Can you imagine the absolute carnage that Mourinho will cause on the touchline should VAR rule against his team, incorrectly? Or the devilishly clever insults he’ll serve to VAR in the post-match press conference?
As you probably know, I’m not a fan of VAR. And maybe what PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) chief Mike Riley and his team of VAR officials really need is a good ol’ rollicking from an irate Mourinho to wake them up.
So, VAR, for once in your life, please do the right thing at the London Stadium this weekend – by making the wrong decision.
3) Wilshere’s Arsenal revenge
As an Arsenal fan, Spurs are naturally top on the list of clubs I detest. And as someone who has always admired and revered the great Arsene Wenger, I have never forgiven Mourinho for the unprofessional and offensive comments he made about the Frenchman back when they were still sparring as managers of Arsenal and Chelsea respectively.
Mourinho managing Spurs is – to me, at least – the equivalent of Lord Voldemort being granted the rule of Mordor. I would give anything to be on the pitch to play Mourinho’s Spurs team one day, just so I can run over to the dugout and two-foot the Portuguese right in his Mourinhos.
And that is the exact opportunity that has been presented to ex-Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere this weekend. The 27-year-old, who now plays for the Hammers, still holds the Gunners close to his heart, and would surely love nothing more than to put a dent in Mourinho’s managerial debut with Spurs.
Though injuries have robbed him of his burst of pace, the Englishman remains one of the most technically gifted players in West Ham. But when fit, and when fired up, Wilshere is near unstoppable, and could prove to be the difference for the West Ham in this London derby.
As mentioned, given that it’s against Spurs and Mourinho, motivation won’t be an issue for Wilshere. The real question is whether he’ll be able to stay fit for the entire 90 minutes, or if he’ll break his femur while doing a neck stretch during the warm-ups.
Of course, I do want Wilshere to be fit enough to lead West Ham to victory against Spurs. But, if he had to get injured, I can only hope that it’ll be through two-footing Mourinho on the touchline.
Because yes, that’s the sort of drama and entertainment the EPL sorely needs.