Chelsea were extremely fortunate to have Jose Mourinho before the football world stopped caring about little things like trophies. The game is about results, not process.
Light your torches and sharpen your pitchforks, because I’m about to give aid and comfort to the enemy. If Tottenham Hotspur FC wants to win a trophy, they need to shut their mouths, listen to Jose Mourinho and do what he tells them to do. And if Spurs fans want to experience just once what Chelsea fans experience on an almost annual basis, they need to put down their FIFA controllers and decide if they are fans of a sports team or a performance art commune.
Tottenham’s loss to Liverpool on Saturday inspired a montage of recycled Chelsea narratives from the past few years.
Cue up the Sky Sports panelists – who just a few months ago were collegially praising their colleague Jose Mourinho – talking about how Mourinho’s tactics are years behind his peers’ and his sour-puss demeanor and siege mentality are a generation behind the zeitgest of the fans. The pundits were all the stamp of the authority the masses needed as their bleating about aesthetics and entertainment led to the usual conclusion that a larger margin of defeat would be worth the style.
As someone whose club knows a lot about winning trophies and only one thing about losing 6-0 to the champions-in-waiting, let me tell you: there is a lot of glory in the former, and none in the latter. And the game is about glory, is it not?
The irony of Tottenham fans and anti-Mourinho pundits wishing Mourinho would put more style and aesthetics into his game plan, even at the expense of results, is that that is exactly what both north London clubs have done for years.
Every season, with one exception, brought a trophy to Chelsea FC and a commemorative DVD celebrating a near miss to Tottenham.
Tottenham were the darling of the football media because of their devotion to style and process, even in the absence of results.
That all changed on June 1, 2019. Liverpool had also been committed to a style and process for the previous few years. Unlike Tottenham, theirs resulted in a trophy: the Champions League title. When the final whistle blew in Madrid, Liverpool overtook Tottenham because they did the one thing Tottenham never did: they won.
Not that the English football media needs an excuse to go in the bag for Liverpool, but as soon as Tottenham became the second-best team in Europe they became an afterthought in England. Worse, they became the target of the same snark and banter that has enveloped clubs like Chelsea for nearly two decades. Chelsea can at least console themselves with all their trophies. Tottenham just has some iconic kits from the last decade, or whatever that tweet was.
Regardless of what any thought leaders, influencers, windbags, Football Manager gurus or overpaid consultants will tell you, football – like all sports – is a results game, not a process game.
Good processes are essential to achieving results, and without the results, they are not good processes. Managers may earn praise for their processes, but they keep or lose their job based on results. Sometimes even the best results are not enough, and sometimes that is because the owner is dissatisfied with style or process. But that’s a curse of affluence. Only when you win can you complain about how you win.
Jose Mourinho knows how to win. He knows the processes necessary to achieve results because for him only the results matter. Often that means buying a handful of proven, expensive players. Occasionally it means playing with 40% possession and hoping to convert one of a few counterattacks for a 1-1 draw or 2-1 win. It may mean minimizing the extent of a loss because goal differential is the second-most important column on the table. Sometimes it means taking a recently beloved team and convincing them that they are up against the world: Mourinho’s “siege mentality.”
Many of the same people criticizing how he lost and the outdated nature of his tactics and processes are also going around saying he failed in his last two postings. Those failed seasons brought Chelsea a League Cup and a Premier League title, and Manchester United a League Cup and Europa League title.
When Tottenham Hotspur eventually sack Jose Mourinho, it will probably be on the basis of process and not results. It wouldn’t be the first time his results-first values conflicted with a club spoiled by his results and willing to trade them in for style and aesthetics. The question is whether they will care enough to taste victory just once before committing their next act of Spursiness.
One of Jose Mourinho’s greatest legacies at Chelsea was instilling a thirst for trophies. If the modern game considers that a source of shame, a dirty ancillary goal behind entertainment value and beautiful football, so be it. We’ll build another a trophy case.