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Mourinho past the point of no return? – What Opta data tells us about ill-fated Tottenham spell

SoccerNews in English Premier League 19 Apr 2021

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In December 2018, Manchester United fans were adamant that Jose Mourinho’s sacking meant he was finished at the “top” in club football.

A drab style of play, a similarly joyless demeanour in news conferences and seemingly incessant desire to belittle his own players marred his time in Manchester.

Disagreements with Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial were hardly private, while his relationship with Marcus Rashford appeared uneasy at times as well.

Yet, Tottenham paid no mind to the issues – whether that was down to Daniel Levy being convinced Mourinho wasn’t finished yet or if he just wanted an entertaining figurehead for his Amazon documentary, who knows, but one has to wonder where the Portuguese can turn now if he doesn’t want to try his hand at an international job.

That’s two successive high-profile jobs in club management that have, at the end of the day, yielded little – even if Mourinho insists finishing second with Manchester United was one of his greatest achievements.

A look at his data in the Premier League since last winning it in 2015 with Chelsea shows real decline.

A failure to evolve

Let’s not forget, during Mourinho’s first spell as Chelsea boss he was regarded as the best coach in the world at times. Even initially in his second period at Stamford Bridge he did well, taking them to the 2014-15 Premier League trophy.

But things quickly unravelled in 2015, and it’s difficult to claim he’s been on anything other than a downward spiral ever since.

He was sacked by Chelsea after winning just four games from 16 at the start of the 2015-16 season, and although he did preside over United’s best season – points wise – since Ferguson’s retirement, he didn’t leave much of a legacy at Old Trafford.

Mourinho was then tasked with ending Spurs’ 11-year trophy drought. That has since stretched to 13 years, though in fairness to him they could end that wait on Sunday in the EFL Cup final.

Nevertheless, he leaves Tottenham having won just 46.6 per cent of his league games in charge.

His record in the English top flight before 2015-16 saw him boast a success rate of 69.4 per cent – since then it is just 48.5 per cent.

But why?

There are numerous theories about Mourinho’s demise, but arguably chief among them is the idea he has failed to evolve with modern football, focusing on negating the threats of opponents rather than using the attacking talents available to him to take the initiative.

This fear is reportedly one reason for Spurs players apparently growing frustrated with Mourinho, and the data backs up the idea Mourinho is less forward thinking than earlier in his career, with his teams averaging 1.6 goals per game since 2014-15 finished, as opposed to 1.8 beforehand.

While not a massive difference, that change is exacerbated by the fact Mourinho no longer appears to be the shrewd pragmatic innovator he was once regarded, with his teams in the past few years rather porous.

Again, since 2015-16 started, Mourinho’s teams have been conceding at a rate of 1.1 per game, whereas previously they conceded just 0.6 goals every 90 minutes.

Mourinho’s teams were once tireless competitors built on a solid foundation – that no longer appears to be the case.

Spurs letting it slip

Perhaps it was expected Mourinho would at least be given until the end of the season, but with Champions League qualification looking increasingly unlikely, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Levy acted now.

In terms of the reasoning for his sacking, there’s probably not much more to it – but if we delve a little further into the numbers, unsettling trends appear.

Granted, the 95 points won by Spurs during Mourinho’s time at the club is the fourth highest in the Premier League. However, that’s 21 fewer than Manchester United – Liverpool have 117 and Manchester City are out in front on 130.

Mourinho’s teams are supposed to be hard to beat, that had essentially been his unique selling point for years, yet they’ve already lost 13 times in 2020-21 – it’s the worst season he’s ever had in that regard.

Similarly, the 10 Premier League losses Spurs have suffered is a career worst for Mourinho.

The frequency of defeats has led to questions being routinely asked of Spurs’ mentality throughout Mourinho’s time there, with the 27 points they’ve dropped from winning positions in the Premier League being behind only Southampton (30) and Brighton and Hove Albion (31).

But it makes for even grimmer viewing when looking at this season as the 20 points they’ve thrown away is the joint-worst in the division.

Spurs have been particularly concerning when it comes to closing games out, losing 11 points to goals conceded after the 80th minute. It’s no wonder their collective mental strength has been called into question so often.

While the fact he hasn’t collected more points per game than Tim Sherwood (1.91) might attract ridicule on social media, the latter’s record is actually the best of any Spurs boss to preside over more than 10 Premier League games at the club.

More importantly, Mourinho’s 1.64 points per game is a significant drop-off on Pochettino’s (1.89), and therein lies a key issue.

As Levy looks to take Tottenham into something of a new era with the European Super League, on the pitch they’ve been heading into the dark ages.

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SoccerNews

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