Under Jose Mourinho Tottenham have restored themselves as a top flight club and they have turned into credible contenders to finish in the top-four. Their splendid counter-attacking play has been a key factor this season under the influence of the Chosen One.
Football on the break is dependent on a few necessities. The first, obviously is a pool of rapid attacking players who can make quick and effective decisions at vital moments of the game and in that regard Mourinho is well equipped. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min make their attacking core. Also, Mourinho has a group of supporting players who share vaguely similar attributes but who also possess a significant difference.
Lucas Moura is extremely direct. Steven Bergwijn is very well rounded. Erik Lamela is craft and creative and in Gareth Bale, Mourinho further has a luxury and experienced option. They can all press, they can all transition at great speed and most importantly they can all score goals. Their different traits and habits, however, prevent Tottenham’s counter-attacking from becoming too mechanical. It can be direct, as it was against West Ham for instance when speedy diagonal runs from Bergwijn and Son split the back three, allowing Kane to provide a long pass inside
Fabián Balbuena and into space for the South-Korean to chase. These can also be intricate like the second and third goal against Leicester City back in July. The move began with Lucas Moura making a clearing header from a corner and ended with Harry Kane who had been defending in his own six-yard box, running the entire length of the pitch to score at the other end.
It was a direct move, but still perfectly timed football of the highest calibre. Combining precise contributions from La Celso, Son, Moura and Kane. As a sequence, it exhibited both the heavily instructed portion of Mourinho’s coaching and also the merits of his relatively “Laissez-Faire” approach to attacking play.
His core belief is in quick, direct use of the ball. Mourinho doesn’t cherish possession in the way that for instance Pep Guardiola does. Believing instead that chasing complete control of the ball is unachievable and a way of inviting mistakes and creating vulnerability.
Tottenham are beginning to conform this way of thinking. During their first phase, their counter-attacks are constructed from immediate vertical movement and as few touches as possible.
The Philosophy -:
- The ball must go forward and do so quickly and accurately.
- The breaking players must break South-to-North at top speed, in straight, vertical lines in the supporting channels.
The Result is that -:
- Tottenham can cover great distances in 10 to 15 second bursts.
- They also tend to acquire numerical advantages on their way into the final third.
For instance, Kane ran the entire pitch in the match against Leicester to score and more recently Lo Celso received the scoring pass against Manchester City having covered 70 yards and overtaking Kevin de Bruyne.
As they grow in regularity, these moves clearly describe Jose Mourinho’s effect. Because of their process, because of the workrate at their heart, but also because of how they end. He preaches positional fluidity, something encouraged by a training ground coaching style that is situational rather than drill based which seeks to develop attacking chemistry rather than automatisms.
Players combining in all sorts of ways, executing the plans with their effective decision making on the pitch and also building their interplay relationships under Mourinho, Spurs have become a new threat in the European football.