Jose Mourinho likes to refer to himself as “The Special One”. Ask him which season to judge his teams by and in his reply will be sharp – “The Second One”. One look at his impeccable career and his statement stands vindicated. Jose Mourinho has achieved unprecedented success all over Europe becoming the first manager to win league titles in four different countries winning titles at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid with all his teams showing a knack to better themselves in the second season. Now that cannot be a co-incidence, right? For a schemer with the tactical nous of Mourinho, it never is. Now that he approaches his second season at Chelsea, the Blues fans must be well aware of this phenomenon and must be looking ahead to a steady dose of silverware. Let us try to find out why The Special One’s second season always tends to be the one in which he is more successful.
Before heading into the question, let us take a look at Mourinho’s achievements. Of course, it is not that Mourinho’s teams fare badly in the first year. However, they do have a tendency to outdo themselves in the second season. In his first season in charge at Porto he won the Premiera Liga, Taca de Portugal and the UEFA Cup which would be a fantastic haul for Porto were it not to be superceded by the League and Champions League titles the following season. At Chelsea, he won the Premier League with a record 95 points at the first time of asking. He followed that up with another league title the following year. He did the same at Inter Milan too winning the Supercoppa and Serie A in the first season but it was soon eclipsed by the treble-winning heroics of the next season. In his first year at Madrid he won the Copa Del Rey and shook off some of the air of invincibility surrounding Pep’s Barcelona and the next season he won La Liga with a record 100 points tally.
Mourinho, till date, has had a ‘one country, one club’ policy. Except in his native Portugal where he managed Benfica, Madeira and Porto during the initial stages of his managerial career, Mourinho has moved clubs, consciously managing only one team in a league. He managed Chelsea in England then moved to Italy with Inter and then to Real Madrid in Spain before coming full circle by returning to Chelsea last year. Now many may think this may not be a pressing point but it is tough to move to a new country and settle in right away. Every time he moves, he has to acclimatise to new surroundings, language and footballing culture. Obviously, he is no magician and requires time to get his ideas across to his new team. Hence, the first season is more like the bedding in period wherein Mourinho gets a better all-round perspective of his new club, its strengths and weaknesses all the while handling huge expectations and delivering on the pitch.
Adapting to Mourinho’s style of play
It is also important to note that the team he has in his first season at a new club is a team he inherits from the previous manger and initially does not bear the stamp of a Mourinho team. To understand this, we need to go no further than the team he inherited at Chelsea last season. Though undoubtedly talented, the team lacked defensive discipline. He came in and made the team more disciplined tactically.
The free scoring and open play of Chelsea was abolished and a more pragmatic approach was instilled by Mourinho. He brought in Willian a combative and hard working midfielder and handed the no. 10 role to Oscar who had a better defensive contribution to the team’s play. Snubbing the flamboyance, Mourinho’s side were more assured defensively and lost very few matches and performed extremely well against the top sides. Two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata was sacrificed because of his inability to track back. The same can be said about David Luiz who lacks the discipline required in a Mourinho team.
Mourinho likes his teams to be well organized. Mourinho’s teams always have a solid defensive foundation on which he builds his team. In his previous spell at Chelsea, the defensive duo of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho were ably supported by an uncompromising midfield consisiting of Essien and Claude Makelele. At Inter Lucio and Samuel were the defensive bedrock on whch Inter’s success was built. It was the same at Real Madrid where he built one of the most lethal counter-attacking sides in the world.Having solved the defensive problem at Chelsea in his first season, the Portugese can now shift his attention to the attacking front which is in need of a proven striker.
Reinforcements in the transfer market
By the end of the first season, Mourinho usually has a clear picture of his team’s shortcomings which are addressed in the transfer market. Mourinho has extensively used the transfer market to bring in players who he feels would add to the way he wants his team to play. In the 2010-11 season at Inter, he bought Thiago Motta, Lucio, Milito and Eto’o and Sneijder who would all play a vital role in Inter’s historic treble winning season.
The Portugese has always splurged in the transfer market and while at Madrid, he brought in Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria who became important players in the Madrid team. Last season at Chelsea, he was forced to use the winter transfer market to bring in Nemanja Matic to add more steel to his midfield. He also bought Mohammed Salah to add pace in his flanks. Last season saw Chelsea face problems with an ageing defence and a toothless attack.
To solve their offensive and defensive problems, Chelsea have roped in Fabregas, Felipe Luis and Diego Costa all of whom are going to be crucial to Mourinho’s challenge for top honours domestically and in Europe.
The Mourinho effect
Mourinho, as a manager is well-known for the rapport he forms with his players and his motivational skills. Many of his players share a special bond with him and they are willing to give their all for him. Mourinho normally succeeds where he has the complete trust of the players and they understand what he is trying to convey. The loyalty he commands over his players is almost surreal.
The sight of a teary Materazzi and Mourinho bidding farewell before the latter’s move to Madrid was an indication of the immense bond he forms with his players. By the second season, he normally has a united bunch of players who are in complete sync with him and his methods. The players who do not buy into his vision are offloaded. The winning mentality of an enigmatic manager like him is contagious and it rubs off on the players who seem to play with a newfound sense of confidence.
It also helps that Mourinho shields his players from all the pressure. His controversies and theatrics in the media direct all the attention towards him thus letting his players focus on the task at hand. Many of his dissenters view this as a narcissistic trait but it may well be a calculated move from the Portugese. Last season, the Portugese continuously downplayed his side’s chances of winning the League, referring to his team as ‘little horses in the title race’.
He said his side would push for major honours the next season. He relieved the pressure from his relatively young team who were coming to grips with a new style of play and their gradual improvement, while playing the way Mourinho wanted, over the course of the season was evident and he had already made notes about the areas which needed to be strengthened. A third place finish in the League and a run to the semi-final of the Champion’s League cannot be considered a disappointment considering the major changes he brought to his side.
Chelsea will be hoping that Mourinho stays true to his promise of delivering titles this coming season. His track record speaks for itself and if the past is anything to go by, Chelsea can look ahead to some exciting times. The base for a successful 2014-15 season has been laid and with the necessary reinforcements, we might see a dominant Chelsea side in the new season. The Chelsea fans must indeed be hoping that this season turns out to be a “Special one.”Published 24 Jul 2014, 11:43 IST