Mourinho’s darts show he believes Spurs can win title | Jonathan Wilson | Soccer


isIn its own way, the post-match interview was a classic of the genre. There was José Mourinho, crumpled, dazzled, shooting his darts. The main claim, perhaps, was that he thought Tottenham had been the better team in their loss to Liverpool, but there was also the suggestion of a plot against him, poor, misunderstood, put on José, and with it a jibe to Jürgen Klopp. And that’s when Mourinho wants to say this: he is mobilized; he thinks Tottenham could actually win.
So far, Klopp v Mourinho has been a rivalry that hasn’t really caught on fire. That might be about to change – and, despite how much the world had started to tire of Mourinho’s mind games, it could be fascinating. Until this season, Klopp had largely avoided the word wars that have been such a key part of the Premier League soap opera. But over the past few weeks, another side of Klopp has emerged. Injuries and some close VAR decisions against Liverpool seem to have rocked him, as evidenced by his spice in interviews, most obviously to Des Kelly of BT Sport after the draw at Brighton, and the unseemly and largely unnecessary racing battle with Chris Wilder.

Mourinho in his prime was an expert in detecting weakness. Maybe he thinks Klopp can be trapped in mistakes. And he’s not wrong about Klopp’s behavior on the sideline. This was widely seen as further proof of Frank Lampard’s thin skin when he reacted to the Liverpool bench celebrations during Chelsea’s loss to Anfield late last season, and it probably was. , but there was something to react to.

The majority of managers spend a significant portion of the game berating the fourth official, but Klopp, or at least Klopp when under pressure, is among the loudest. Of course, Mourinho sees an opportunity. And now he’s planted the seed. Maybe next time a fourth official will take a tougher line. There may be a map. At the very least, the media and the general public can begin to understand Klopp’s antics, begin to scrutinize them, ask questions about them. Anything that distracts Klopp from the game itself is a bonus from Mourinho’s perspective.

And with Mourinho, there are always games within games. Even the fact that sequels like this are about wars of words and sideline antics – leaves the possibility that Wilder could be Klopp’s Vietnam, an unnecessary but costly conflict against an opponent much smaller than him. he doesn’t need to beat – maybe, are part of his propaganda campaign.

The match itself raised tough questions about the sustainability of the Mourinho Method, although there is nothing straightforward here. His claim that Spurs had been the better team seemed absurd at first glance, another of his provocations, and yet xG (expected goals statistics) agreed. Models vary, but most, while suggesting 1-1 as a reasonable score, appeared to have Tottenham winning around 0.25 of a goal. Liverpool might have had 76 percent of the ball and 11 shots on target against the two from Tottenham, but Steven Bergwijn missed two head-to-head and Harry Kane put a glorious header into the ground and over in the second half. The chances were clear there.

Harry Kane wasted a glorious chance to put Tottenham in the lead in the second half at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Powell / Reuters

And yet, maybe all it really does is show the limits of xG when considering a single game. It measures the odds and evaluates the likelihood that they will be noted. But there is a superiority that does not manifest itself in the odds, that posed by a team simply standing close to an opponent’s area, probing and testing, trying balls into the box which with a touch would become excellent. luck but without a sign up at all.

This kind of possession can turn sterile, but Liverpool cannot, which is a testament to the intelligence and wit of the top three, Roberto Firmino in particular. But what is striking is how that threat increased in the last quarter of an hour, after Mourinho pulled Bergwijn out for Sergio Reguilón. The idea, presumably, was to fight Trent Alexander-Arnold, maybe even pull him forward so Son Heung-min could attack the space behind him, but what ended up happening was that ‘is that Tottenham lost much of their counterattacking stroke, allowing Liverpool to overwhelm them.

In this, perhaps, was a reminder of why so few elite sides are exploiting a Mourinho-style low block these days. The tendency is to complain about the constant tinkering of the laws, but football is right, it is that it is much more difficult to kill a game than it was ten years ago. For a match to disappear, it usually takes the complicity of both teams. But also, in part because the vast financial disparities in the game, even within a single division, mean they run into massive defenses more often, the coordinated attack from the top teams means they are very. good at picking them up.

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Mourinho can legitimately point out that he was four minutes away from achieving a draw that would have kept Spurs at the top of the table, but after the draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday, that’s three points lost due to conceded goals in the last 10 minutes when Spurs seemed to have games under control.

Off the pitch, Mourinho may be enjoying a new surge of life; on this, familiar doubts about its approach in the modern world remain.


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