|photo by batrax||via PhotoRee|
Ed is back -- twice in one week! -- to wax lyrically about the Special One, new (or is it old?) Chelsea bossman Jose Mourinho:
Ever since the pinching incident, I've been a little weary of the Special One and have mixed emotions regarding his return to the BPL. Chelsea may very well benefit from him, and his certain reorganization of the team will be interesting to see. Rumors are that Juan Mata and Fernando Torres will be sold to make room and money for new talents. I get Torres, but Mata? Well, hard to blame him for something he hasn't done yet.
Mourinho's return coincides with Sir Alex Ferguson's departure. We can be certain that Mourinho was hopeful he would have a chance at the United job, and we can be equally certain that he's going to be very motivated to beat United in his return to Old Trafford with Chelsea. David Moyes is no weakling, and he certainly knows how to put a team together. That said, I expect the matchup to be a fun one, but I'd warn Jose not to try anything so ginger as a pinch with Moyes -- if I recall he was ready to deck Roberto Mancini for throwing a ball his way not that long ago.
And now we will also have the opportunity to see what Roberto Martinez can do at Everton. The Toffees have a long proven track record of success; fighting for relegation is not something they were familiar with under Moyes. It's been said that Martinez's defenses at Wigan have been poor -- the opposite of Moyes rigid defenses at Everton. Will Martinez have success due to that defensive coaching residue? Will he struggle trying to adapt the players to a new system? Fans will not have much patience with him; it will be as tough a job as any he's had.
Manchester City also looks to be adding a new Italian coach. I've always been a bit suspect of the Italian coaches, believing that they are caught in the defensive counter attack system that took shape years ago and is largely unentertaining to watch. Something may have changed my mind, though, and that is Dortmund's uber-coach Jurgen Klopp stating how he learned from the Italian coaches just how talent can be outdone by good tactics. Seeing his teams play is believing; perhaps the Italians have more to offer the modern game than I thought.
Finally, I'd note that I saw a terrific interview of Michael Cox of Zonal Marking that appeared on the soccermetrics.net website, which can be found here and here. Here's the part I found the best:
Q: How different are tactics between Premier League teams and teams on the Continent? Is there more convergence with the increased number of foreign players and managers in England?
A. Yes, it’s happened to a certain extent, but there are still differences. England was tactically very dull at the start of the Premier League, but the influx of foreign coaches helped – Jose Mourinho, in particular, prompted an obsession with the 4-3-3, although this often looked more like a 4-5-1 when it was replicated at less successful clubs. That said, matches are still different in England from in Germany and Spain, which are very technical, and in Italy, where pressing isn’t obvious and formations take on more importance.
Q. What have been the major evolutions in tactics over recent seasons?
A. Everything has changed because of more focus on ball retention. That means sides have tried to get extra men into the centre of the pitch, which has caused two-striker formations to become unpopular, and then there was a move towards playing no-striker formations, too. There’s also less emphasis on crossing, and width has often been used to stretch the opposition defence, rather than to actually get around the back and deliver balls into the box.
Q. Has Barcelona’s success affected team tactics in a meaningful way?
A. Yes, they’ve influenced everyone hugely in terms of short passing and excessive ball retention. There are certainly lessons to take on board, but I feel the importance of hitting the opposition defence while they’re disorganised has been lost – counter-attacking remains a valuable strategy.
Q. I think I told you in an e-mail that I felt like I always learned something new by reading your articles. What’s the one thing that would improve the public’s understanding of what’s going on in a football match?
A. To be honest, the key is probably better punditry on the television. Those guys set the agenda and influence ideas about the game, but they focus on one or two incidents in a game when the broader pattern – formations, overall strategies – is more important.
Better punditry on TV? We can only hope….
This is farlieonfootie for June 7.