The Daily Mail’s chief sports writer Oliver Holt has launched a scathing attack on Tottenham Hotspur’s style of play under Jose Mourinho, insisting that the Lilywhites play a fearful brand of football instead of taking games to the opposition.
Mourinho claimed after Spurs’ 2-1 loss at Anfield on Wednesday that the better team had lost but Holt insisted that Liverpool were much the better side.
The journalist insisted that the North London club should change their motto from ‘To Dare Is To Do’ to ‘To Dare is to Don’t’ if they continue playing the same way.
He wrote in his column for the Daily Mail: “‘The best team lost,’ Jose Mourinho snapped at Jurgen Klopp as the managers of Spurs and Liverpool bumped fists on the Anfield touchline on Wednesday night.
“Klopp laughed, which was the correct reaction. The best team lost? It was classic Mourinho: graceless and unintentionally funny. We can add it to the exhibits in his Hubris Collection, although we’re going to need to build a bigger museum.
“The best team lost? Well, if you prefer a block of concrete flats to the Colosseum, then yes. If you prefer a petrified forest to nature in full bloom, then yes. If you prefer caution to boldness, then yes.
“If you prefer hiding round the corner until the coast is clear to going on an adventure, then yes. If you prefer playing without the ball to playing with the ball, then yes, the best team lost.
“But if you value creativity above destruction, if you want to see your team express itself, if you don’t want to see your side cover up on the ropes when they play decent opposition, then you will realise the idea the best team lost when the league’s top two met is a fallacy. Spurs pushed Liverpool close. But the best team won.
“The truth is that under Mourinho, the famous old Spurs motto has had a rewrite. To Dare Is To Do has become To Dare Is To Don’t. Caution is the watchword now. Passive aggression. Soaking up pressure. Spurs’ identity was always supposed to be about attacking, attractive football. Not any more.”
While Holt acknowledged that contrasting styles of play is what makes the game interesting, he asserted that the Tottenham boss’ philosophy represents ugliness and fear as opposed to the bravery and beauty of Pep Guardiola’s and Jurgen Klopp’s sides.
Holt wrote: “Yes, there is a stark beauty to the Tottenham side that Mourinho has bastardised from the team that was bequeathed him by Mauricio Pochettino.
“Functional, redoubtable, superbly organised and pared down to the bone in 90 per cent of what it does, it explodes into savage glory in bursts of isolated and breathtaking counter-attacking brilliance, channelled through Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
“In those moments, yes, Spurs are magnificent to watch. Klopp referred to them as a ‘counter-attacking monster’. Son is my player of the season so far. And when they counter-attack, they do it so well, they are hard to stop.
“But once the firework has gone off, you often have to wait a long time for the next one. And in between, the night is as black as pitch. On Wednesday, Spurs had two shots on target during the entire game.
“In his new book, The Greatest Games, Jamie Carragher makes the point that there is no ‘right way’ to win a football match and that is true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are some who revere Mourinho as a tactician and find enjoyment in his smash-and-grab football and his relentless search for ways to frustrate the grander ambitions of others.
“But taken as a whole, there is something bleak about Mourinho’s philosophy. It is hard not to lean towards the more proactive, attacking, creative football of teams managed by men like Pep Guardiola, Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa.
“Oh, and Pochettino, who achieved so much at Spurs playing a much more entertaining style of football than Mourinho. It’s a personal preference. We are all allowed them.
“It would be no fun if every manager played the same way. Part of the magic of football is there are so many competing philosophies. But fear is at the heart of Mourinho’s football. It rules him. His dominant emotion is fear of what an opponent can do to him. And the beauty of his fear is that it makes us appreciate the courage of men like Guardiola, Klopp and Bielsa even more.
“We need ugliness for beauty to be thrown into sharper relief and Mourinho provides that. He demands beautiful football works harder to beat him. If City want to get the better of Spurs later this season, they are going to have to excel. A Mourinho side is a barrier to break down. It is an obstacle for the best teams to hurdle.”
While Holt acknowledged that it be an astounding achievement if Mourinho were to guide Spurs to the Premier League title, he suggested that Spurs fans would quickly turn against the Portuguese coach if he does not deliver success.
He went on to add: “It is normal that some Spurs fans should seek refuge in denial about the style that Mourinho has introduced. It is so long since they won anything that it is hard to begrudge their willingness to embrace the pursuit of success by any means necessary.
“They have struck a bargain with Mourinho and, if he wins them the title, he will have fulfilled his side of it and more. It will be right up there with the greatest achievements of his career.
“Spurs look like a side who are going to be in this title race to the end. This is a strange season and Mourinho has built an efficient, ruthless machine. If Liverpool falter, they will be there. If City do not recover their old poise, Spurs will be there. This is their optimum time.
“Next season will be Mourinho’s third at the club and history tells us he is not a manager for the long haul. The evidence suggests his narcissism begins to grate on his players after a while.
“If he doesn’t win the league this season, then the bargain wasn’t worth taking. Pochettino got Spurs to second in the Premier League, not to mention the Champions League final, by encouraging his team to play football that was a delight to watch.
“If Mourinho goes one better, it will have been worth it. If he doesn’t, Spurs fans may yet come to reflect on the fact they swapped do for don’t.”
Spurs Web Opinion
Style of play is, of course, a personal preference but one wonders why there are not similar articles about the likes of Diego Simeone, Antonio Conte or Massimiliano Allegri. It is only ever Mourinho who seems to be attacked for a counter-attacking style of football even though he is hardly the only coach in the world who gets his teams playing that way.
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