Tactically outdated Mourinho must reinvent himself – just like Guardiola

COMMENT: The Special One has used the same 4-2-3-1 formation for the last five-and-a-half years but must modernise if he is to save his job and win more major trophies 

Tactically outdated Mourinho must reinvent himself - just like Guardiola

“During our first team meeting at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho didn’t talk much about tactics. In tactical terms, you just have to look at how he eliminated Barcelona in the Champions League with Inter in 2010 by playing defensive, counter-attacking football. Despite all the talented players he has had at his disposal, the recent years have shown that he has probably become outdated tactically.”

This was the damning response of an ex-Mourinho player when asked by Goal if his former Madrid mentor was to blame for Chelsea’s disastrous season.

The player in question asked to remain anonymous – he is active and may have to work with Mourinho again. But he is not alone in his criticism of the Chelsea boss. There have been numerous theories as to why the flailing Premier League champions, who sit just two points above the relegation zone following Saturday’s humiliating home loss to Bournemouth, have collapsed so spectacularly this campaign.

Is Mourinho suffering from third season syndrome? Is the dressing room broken? Is a poor summer transfer market to blame? Did the controversial departure of first team doctor Eva Carneiro affect the squad?

However, the former Madrid player’s narrow focus – whether Mourinho has been at fault tactically – is not a question that has been explored in depth. There can be little argument that since taking over Real Madrid in 2010, Mourinho has not evolved in a strategic sense. During his three-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu and his two-and-a-half seasons back at Chelsea, he has almost always utilised his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

But this is a system that – despite emerging as the most popular and innovative formation of the new millennium – is now out of fashion among the elite. None of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus or Atletico Madrid use it. Carlo Ancelotti quickly abandoned it after succeeding Mourinho at Madrid, although the under-fire Rafa Benitez has flirted with its return this term.

The 4-2-3-1 is still relatively popular in the Premier League, so the formation alone cannot be used as an excuse for Chelsea’s dismal domestic form – even if it could help explain why English sides have flopped in Europe in the last few years. But it is just as much how Mourinho’s players interpret their roles within this system that is hurting Chelsea.

Jose’s obsession with fielding a team that is solid, organised and protected by a flat back four and two holding midfielders has not once wavered. Although Eden Hazard and Willian do have some licence to roam and switch flanks in offensive phases and Cesc Fabregas can act as a floating playmaker, the position of each player in the team is rigid. Each occupies a place on the right, the left or the centre and generally holds their position throughout the game. With such clear reference points, Chelsea are not only painfully pragmatic but also very predictable.

Top football teams today need to be far more flexible and expansive. They can’t use the same formation and occupy the same positions each game. If they do they will soon be found out, especially with so much technology and data available to analyse every movement on the pitch.

Pep Guardiola is surely the most advanced coach tactically right now. On Saturday, he selected the same Bayern Munich XI for the first time in 100 games. Last season, 10 of Mourinho’s team started at least 26 of their Premier League matches and three were ever-presents.

Attempting to decipher Pep’s formation on the pitch is virtually impossible. To Guardiola, there is no such thing as a set formation, it is all about interpreting space depending on the scenario and where the ball and opponents are. Then it is about exploiting this space by creating ‘passing lanes’ to provide multiple channels of attack in each move. As a result Bayern can line up at the centre circle in a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3, then 10 seconds later be attacking in a 2-3-5.

“We can play a back three or a back four, we can play with one or two support strikers, whatever,” captain Philipp Lahm told Goal last month. “I don’t know how many systems we have. Our game is very flexible in any case. [A formation to us] is often only about how you write in down.”

Guardiola is a proponent of total football. He demands that his players are comfortable in any area of the pitch – and that his defenders are just as proficient going forward as they are backwards. Compare David Alaba, Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng starting moves from deep and pushing into midfield with Chelsea’s John Terry, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma, who are incapable of crossing the halfway line unless it is to go up for a corner.

Then look at Diego Costa, a lone striker with little to no lateral or off-the-ball movement – once again an easy reference point for defenders unless he is in peak condition. A big hulking target man has been a favourite of Mourinho for most of his career, with Didier Drogba his crown jewel. But, this type of physical striker may also be going out of fashion.

The best team in the world, Barcelona, employ a trio of small, skilful, interchanging forwards. Manchester City have the premier attack in England with the pint-sized Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and David Silva buzzing around. Juventus and Atletico are building their futures around the tiny but incredibly talented Paulo Dybala and Antoine Griezmann, respectively. PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski may be big but they are technically the equal of anyone.

Guardiola’s philosophy that players and formations need to be eclectic and adaptable is catching on. Last season, Massimiliano Allegri won the domestic double and reached the Champions League final with Juventus by deploying numerous different systems. He regularly switched from a 4-3-1-2 to a 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3 – often during the same game. This ability to “change the menu”, as Patrice Evra described it, is crucial.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have little variation to their play. Indeed, this season 13 of their 28 goals in the Premier League and Champions League have come from set pieces, while many others have been via deflections or goalkeeping gaffes. Very few have been well crafted.

“Juventus are developing a system that will be used by most of the big European teams in a couple of years,” former Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli told Tuttosport.

“Juventus are at the vanguard: they use a hybrid tactical method that highlights the individual quality, even changing tactically during the course of a single move.”

Mourinho must also embrace this change. He cannot stand still. As Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli pointed out on Tuesday: “Guardiola is constantly developing tactically”. The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson was successful for so long because he was always evolving. He won the 1999 Champions League with a flat 4-4-2 formation, then changed to a 4-4-1-1, lifted another European title with a 4-3-3, before returning to a 4-4-2 to win his 13th and final Premier League title in 2013.

The 4-2-3-1 formation and Mourinho’s interpretation of it is simplistic and outdated. It is no coincidence that in the last five-and-a-half years he has won five trophies (including two trophyless campaigns and no European titles), compared to the 17 he bagged in the seven years prior – which comprised of six league championships, two Champions Leagues and a Uefa Cup.


Ancelotti: Messi’s return is not good news for Roma

The Italian does not think that the Argentine’s restoration to the starting line-up will affect Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have both netted 11 times in their past 11 games

Ancelotti: Messi's return is not good news for Roma

Carlo Ancelotti says Lionel Messi’s likely return to the Barcelona starting line-up is “not good news for Roma”, insisting that Neymar and Luis Suarez will be even more effective with the Argentine back alongside them.

Messi suffered a knee injury in a Liga game against Las Palmas on September 26, prompting fears that the Catalan club could struggle without their talismanic No.10.

However, Neymar and Suarez have flourished in his absence, with both men netting 11 times in the 11 games that they have started without Messi, sparking a debate over whether the pair perform better without the four-time Ballon d’Or winner, who made his comeback as a substitute in Saturday’s 4-0 rout of Real Madrid.

Ancelotti, though, says that the fit-again Messi is only going to make Barca stronger, pointing out that his wonderful on-field rapport with his fellow South Americans was the key factor in last season’s historic treble triumph.

“Messi’s return is not good news for Roma,” the Italian coach told Goal ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash at Camp Nou.

“It’s true that Suarez and Neymar are doing very well but clearly Barca with Messi are something else. Messi brings goals, quality… He brings everything!

“He brings  enthusiasm to his team-mates, who know that they have by their side a player capable of unlocking any game at any moment.

“It’s obviously better to play a Barca without him. Messi’s presence will only relegate Neymar and Suarez to the background in terms of media coverage, because on the field they do certainly not reside in the background.

“They had an extraordinary finish to last season, finding a special chemistry that allowed Barcelona to win everything.

“I don’t see them suffering with Messi, neither Neymar nor Suarez.”

‘Carlo would have continued at Madrid despite surgery’ – Ancelotti’s wife

The Italian coach will need to “recharge his batteries” after back surgery but could have remained in control of the Blancos

'Carlo would have continued at Madrid despite surgery' - Ancelotti's wife

Carlo Ancelotti’s wife, Mariann, has admitted that her husband would have remained at Real Madrid had the club not decided to sack him on Monday – despite the coach’s insistence that he has to take a one-year sabbatical for medical reasons.

The Italian coach penned a three-year contract when he arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer of 2013 and enjoyed a stellar debut season in Spain, winning the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

But despite lifting the Club World Cup last December, Ancelotti was dismissed after Madrid finished second in La Liga, having failed to defend their European crown.

Ancelotti subsequently revealed that he required surgery on a longstanding back problem and would thus be taking a year out of the game.

The 55-year-old’s wife, though, has now claimed that the former AC Milan boss would have stayed at the Santiago Bernabeu were his services still required.

“If Real had wanted, Carlo would have continued,” Mariann told Vanity Fair. “But it did not happen and Carlo wants to recharge his batteries here in Madrid before making a decision about which club will be his next.

“We wanted to take advantage of the possibility to get to know places in Spain that we have not been able to visit up to now – museums, restaurants etc.

“In addition, we are going to have a new member of our family shortly and we look forward to the arrival of Alessandro, our daughter Katia’s son.

“Additionally, the people of Madrid are incredible. They have supported us a lot and they have transmitted their respect to us and the enormous appreciation that they have for Carlo.

“We are very grateful to the people for their affection and loyalty.”

Ancelotti, who is being openly pursued by Milan, will go under the knife in Canada this summer.

Carlo Ancelotti Rules Out Return To Serie A And Slams ‘Brainless’ Italian Fans

Carlo Ancelotti says he has no interest in ever working in Serie A again because of the country’s ‘brainless fans’ and ’empty stadiums’.

Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti says he has no interest in ever working in Serie A again because of the country’s “brainless fans” and “empty stadiums”.

The Real Madrid coach claims the country’s supporters have too much power. The 55-year-old left his homeland in 2009 to take charge of Chelsea after an eight-season spell with AC Milan, during which he won the Champions League twice and one Serie A title.

However, he has yet return, having since enjoyed successful spells at Paris Saint-Germain and now, Real Madrid.

Ancelotti is continually linked with top jobs in Italy, as well as the role of national team coach, but the former Azzurri midfielder revealed he has no desire to return home.

“Before I left Italy I thought about things, it was not easy, but I’ve felt comfortable abroad,” he told Radio Rai. “I would not return.

“Italian football is still very competitive. The difference is the environment.

“The stadiums are empty compared to other countries and the violence is more common in Italy than other places.

“What happened in Cagliari, Roma and Varese is very sad. It can no longer be that the players are hostages to brainless fans.

“Here [in Spain], the demonstrations are limited only to the whistles in the stadium. The ultras and the banners no longer exist.

“But it’s not this that keeps me away, so much as the pleasure that comes from living a foreign adventure and getting to know other sporting cultures.”

Trophy or bust for Ancelotti as Madrid board prepares Zidane for top job

The Madrid coach is on borrowed time, and only a major trophy will be enough to keep him in a job beyond this season

Trophy or bust for Ancelotti as Madrid board prepares Zidane for top job

“It is necessary to make changes from time to time, even in times of success,” said sporting director Jorge Valdano the day after Real Madrid had won a 29th La Liga title in 2003. That was the club’s explanation for sacking coach Vicente del Bosque after a trophy-laden three-and-a-half years in charge.

That day has lived long with many observers of the Blancos. The heartless severing of ties with a man who, only 12 months prior, had led them to a second Champions League in three attempts left critics denouncing Florentino Perez’s reckless pursuit of glory, while fans developed a detached relationship with every new coach thereafter. They know that Bernabeu bosses are kept on a short leash.

It is against this backdrop that Carlo Ancelotti’s future is now being discussed with increasing fervour.

Only 10 months ago Ancelotti became the first Real Madrid coach to win a Champions League since Del Bosque and, as recently as December, led them to the world title on the back of 22 straight victories. But now the Italian looks set to be dealt with just as harshly as the current Spain boss unless his side’s form changes dramatically before the season is out.

“Anything that is not a victory seems like a crisis at Real Madrid,” former Blancos boss Juande Ramos told Goal.

“Three months ago, they won the Club World Cup after 22 wins in a row, and it seemed they were gods. Three months later things have turned a little and it seems they are despised.

“It’s what comes with the territory of that job. But there is no doubt that Carlo Ancelotti is a great coach and has enough experience to steady the ship.”

But regardless of Ancelotti’s experience, Sunday’s defeat to Barcelona in the season’s second La Liga Clasico leaves the capital club four points adrift of the Catalans at the top of the table, with their poor form in 2015 having also affected their status as favourites to lift the European title.

The very real possibility that the club could end the season with no further silverware means the club are already thinking of Plan B. There will be no mercy shown to Ancelotti unless the Champions League or La Liga is added to the bulging trophy cabinet.

Goal sources at Real Madrid have confirmed that no amount of second place finishes will be enough. Indeed it was only Sergio Ramos’ last-minute equaliser in last year’s European final which kept Ancelotti in a job. Defeat to Atletico Madrid in Lisbon would have seen the Italian shown the door and the same stipulations stand in 2015.
While Perez attempted to appease fans at a press conference recently, he failed to confirm that Ancelotti will be back in charge for 2015-16. Sources close to the club believe the president had more selfish motives behind that appearance since he had also been whistled by fans at the 4-3 home defeat to Schalke in the Champions League days earlier.

For his part, Ancelotti is considered too much of a soft touch by Perez and the Madrid board. Which is ironic, as previous boss Jose Mourinho was felt to be too dominant a character. While the players are huge fans of the Italian, reiterating their support for him whenever possible in media interviews, there is no such compassion held by the directors. The backing of the squad will only buy their coach time if they are collecting trophies on the pitch.

Victory at the Camp Nou might have been a lifeline, but the 55-year-old admitted his side had run out of ideas late in the game. And a similar shortage of clear direction over the rest of the campaign could well open the door for Zinedine Zidane.

The French legend is rapidly heading to the top of the wanted list having served as Ancelotti’s number two in 2013-14 and taken charge of Real Madrid Castilla this term. Perez remains a huge fan of the former World Cup winner following his five-year spell with the club as a player, and is willing to give him his first job in senior coaching sooner or later.

The 42-year-old wasn’t among the list of considerations when Jose Mourinho left the Bernabeu two years ago, with the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Joachim Low joining Ancelotti on the shortlist. Yet his increased hands-on experience in the intervening period, combined with a lack of outstanding candidates elsewhere, leave the former Ballon d’Or winner and three-times Fifa World Player of the Year as a clear favourite for the role.

Only victories will save Ancelotti now. Either an overhauling of Barcelona’s La Liga lead or a first ever back-to-back Champions League triumph is needed to keep the wolves from the door. He may have made a rod for his own back by collecting four major trophies in 2014, but Madrid’s standards have always been notoriously high.

It’s win or bust from here on in for the Italian.

Mourinho could not cope with pressure at Real Madrid, says Calderon

The former Madrid supremo feels the current Chelsea manager was out of his depth at the Santiago Bernabeu and is full of praise for Carlo Ancelotti

Mourinho could not cope with pressure at Real Madrid, says Calderon

Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon believes the pressure at the Santiago Bernabeu was too much for Jose Mourinho.

The Portuguese coach endured three years full of incidents and conflicts at the Spanish side after joining them from Inter in the summer of 2010.

Mourinho eventually left Madrid for a return to Chelsea after the 2012-13 campaign and Calderon believes his struggles in the Spanish capital were down to the enormous pressure.

“To be a coach of Real Madrid is really, really difficult,” Calderon told BBC World Service.

“See what happened to Mourinho.  He is someone who is used to coping with pressure and he couldn’t at Madrid.

“When Mourinho left, things were in a really bad situation. He had to leave the club after three years of a lot of problems, a lot of confrontations.”

Mourinho guided Madrid to the Liga title in 2011-12 and the Copa del Rey in 2010-11, but failed to steer them to Champions League glory, unlike his successor Carlo Ancelotti, and Calderon feels the Italian has done a great job since replacing Mourinho, although he feels he could be on his way out as well in the not too distant future.

“To be here more than two, three years is really a big task. I think he has done a very good job, not only because he won the Champions League but because things are calm, relaxed and everything is smooth.

“I have read Joachim Low is one coach we would like but it is always rumour and we will have the rumours until the next five months when it is decided whether definitely Ancelotti will be here.”

Ancelotti in denial as celebrity culture risks ruining Real Madrid again

The Italian insists he has no problem with Cristiano’s celebrations last Saturday, but the party painted a picture of indiscipline at Santiago Bernabeu

Ancelotti in denial as celebrity culture risks ruining Real Madrid again

The timing could not have been worse. Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his 30th birthday with an extravagant party along with coaches, staff and players on Saturday just hours after Real Madrid’s humiliating derby defeat at Atletico Madrid.

The event was pre-planned, with friends of the three-time Ballon d’Or winner travelling from overseas to join him in the Spanish capital. But after a woeful performance both collectively and individually against Atleti in the 4-0 defeat at the Vicente Calderon, the party proved a PR disaster for both Madrid and Ronaldo.

Images were leaked to the press and on social media of Cristiano and Colombian singer Kevin Roldan, who also published pictures on Twitter, and the party was reminiscent of the 2003 celebration of Brazilian striker Ronaldo which also caused controversy for Real.

Back then, Claude Makelele and coach Vicente del Bosque had just left the club and celebrity culture was spinning out of control in the first Florentino Perez project. Ronaldo’s 27th birthday bash at his home in La Moraleja was attended by most of Madrid’s squad at the time including David Beckham, Raul, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and even Zinedine Zidane, along with a string of models, while the picture of a tearful Vania Millan (a former Miss Spain and now wife of Sergio Ramos’ brother Rene) found its way into the media just like the images of Cristiano singing on Saturday.

The departure of Makelele and Del Bosque meant indiscipline had set in. And although Real started the season strongly, it was the beginning of the end for the first Galactico project as Madrid ended up without a trophy that year and Perez ultimately left the club following a barren spell which ran until 2006.

“It wasn’t only due to Makelele leaving,” Zidane told Goal. “There were several, one per line: [Fernando] Hierro, Makelele, [Fernando] Morientes and Del Bosque as well. Four at the same time.”

“Makelele leaving was one of the reasons, but it wasn’t only him. And when you change a winning team, it’s never good. You have to leave a winning team alone, let it confirm itself. What happened at the time is that four or five players and the coach left. It went wrong after that.”

Discipline was lost, the balance was upset, the party was over. And just over a decade later, another Ronaldo fiesta threatens to destabilise a successful side once again.

Madrid ended 2014 with a record 22 straight victories in all competitions and Cristiano celebrated his third Ballon d’Or win in January, but double defeat to Atletico in Copa and Liga and a loss at Valencia straight after the winter break have seen Real ruffled in 2015. Fans were left frustrated but, while they reflected on a painful derby day, the Portuguese partied on Saturday night.

A banner reading “your laughter, our shame” was unfurled by two supporters outside the club’s training ground earlier this week, while another fan shouted “more balls and less parties” to the former Manchester United man as he drove out of Wednesday’s session.

Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes and former Madrid winger Figo both defended the forward this week. Meanwhile, coach Carlo Ancelotti stressed in his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s game against Deportivo that he had no problem with Ronaldo’s party.

“The party is not an issue for me. I have never judged the private lives of players and will not begin now,” he told the media.

“I have no doubts about the professionalism of the players. They can do what they want out of work as long as it doesn’t affect their professional work.”

However, the party set a tone that is far removed from the image of discipline and professionalism needed at one of the world’s greatest clubs and Ancelotti will now need to manage the situation behind closed doors or face a Galactico meltdown similar to the one which rocked the team in 2003.