Tuesday, October 19

Mourinho’s dart throw shows he believes Spurs can win the title | Jonathan Wilson | Football

IIn its way, the post-game interview was a classic of its kind. There was José Mourinho, wrinkled, with bubbles, firing his darts. The headline, perhaps, was that he thought Tottenham had been the best team in their defeat at Liverpool, but there was also the suggestion of a conspiracy against him, poor, misunderstood, insulted José, and with it a mockery of Jürgen. Klopp. And that was when it happened that Mourinho wants to say this: he is mobilizing; think Tottenham could win this.

So far, Klopp v Mourinho has been a rivalry that hasn’t really ignited. That could be about to change and despite everything the world had started to tire of Mourinho’s mind games, that could be fascinating. Until this season, Klopp had largely avoided the word wars that have been a key part of the Premier League soap opera. But in recent weeks, another side of Klopp has emerged. Injuries and some tight VAR decisions against Liverpool seem to have puzzled him, as witnessed in his interviews, most obviously to BT Sport’s Des Kelly after the draw at Brighton, and the unseemly and largely futile career battle with Chris Wilder. .

Mourinho at his peak was an expert at sniffing out weakness. Maybe you think Klopp can make mistakes. And he is not wrong about Klopp’s behavior on the touchline. It was widely regarded as further proof of Frank Lampard’s sagging when he reacted to Liverpool’s bench celebrations during Chelsea’s loss at Anfield towards the end of last season, and it probably was, but there was something to react to.

Most coaches spend a significant part of the game berating the fourth official, but Klopp, or at least Klopp when under pressure, is among the most vociferous. Of course Mourinho sees an opportunity. And now he has planted the seed. Perhaps next time, a fourth official can adopt a more severe line. Maybe there is a card. At the very least, the media and the general public can begin to notice Klopp’s antics, they can begin to scrutinize them, ask questions about them. Anything that distracts Klopp from the game itself is an advantage from Mourinho’s point of view.

And with Mourinho there are always games within games. Even the fact that sequels like this speak of word wars and sideline antics floats the possibility that Wilder is Klopp’s Vietnam, a futile but costly and unwinnable conflict against a much smaller opponent at the time. that has no need to overcome. perhaps they are part of your propaganda campaign.

The party itself raised difficult questions about the sustainability of the Mourinho method, although there is nothing simple here. His claim that the Spurs had been the best team seemed at first glance absurd, another one of his provocations, and yet xG (expected goal statistics) agreed. Models vary, but most, while suggesting 1-1 as a reasonable score, seemed to have Tottenham leading by around 0.25 of a goal. Liverpool may have had 76% of the ball and 11 shots on goal to Tottenham’s two, but Steven Bergwijn missed two one-on-one and Harry Kane put a glorious opportunity to head to the ground and more in the second half. The clear possibilities were there.

Harry Kane squandered a glorious opportunity to put Tottenham ahead in the second half at Anfield.

Harry Kane squandered a glorious opportunity to put Tottenham ahead in the second half at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Powell / Reuters

And yet, perhaps all it really does is show the limitations of xG by considering a unique game. Measure the opportunities and evaluate the probability that they will be scored. But there is a superiority that is not manifested at times, which is posed by a team simply by being in the vicinity of the rival area, probing and testing, testing balls in the area that with a touch would become an excellent opportunity but without a don ‘t record at all.

That kind of possession can become sterile, but Liverpool’s cannot, which is testament to the intelligence and ingenuity of the three forwards, Roberto Firmino in particular. But what was striking was how that threat increased in the last quarter of an hour, after Mourinho retired Bergwijn for Sergio Reguilón. The idea, presumably, was to fight Trent Alexander-Arnold, perhaps even to lure him forward so that Son Heung-min could attack the space behind him, but what ended up happening was that Tottenham lost much of their counter punch. , which allowed Liverpool to overwhelm them.

In that, perhaps, it was a reminder of why so few elite teams operate a Mourinho-style low block these days. The trend is to complain about the constant changes in the laws, but one thing soccer has done well is make it much more difficult to kill a game than it was a decade ago. For a game to fade, it usually requires the complicity of both teams. But also, partly because large financial disparities in the game, even within the same division, mean that they face massive defenses more frequently, the coordinated attack from the best sides means that they are very good at taking them out.

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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 tie at Crystal Palace on Sunday, it’s three points lost on goals conceded in the final 10 minutes when the Spurs seemed to have lost. have the games under control.

Off the pitch, Mourinho may be enjoying a new lease of life; Above him, familiar doubts remain about his approach to the modern world.


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