Jose Mourinho and Chelsea came in for another round of criticism for playing what has been dubbed “anti-football” by critics this past Sunday at Anfield. The Blues won 2-0 to keep their league title hopes alive. This came after similarly negative displays at Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.
A prevalent theme among the critics is that Mourinho, who is captaining the ship of one of the richest soccer clubs on the planet for the second time, has an obligation to play differently. Soccer is meant to be entertaining, we are told. However, a theory has been widely floated that when someone who has great resources at their disposal opts to play in such a negative and cynical fashion as Mourinho has in big matches at Chelsea, it hurts the overall likeability of the sport.
To me, this notion is patently absurd. Winning is what determines sponsorships, ticket sales, global reach and ultimately the retention of a manager. With fixture congestion worse than ever, managing resources becomes the name of the game if a club of Chelsea’s ambition is to compete on multiple fronts.
A club like Chelsea that does not have a long identifiable style of play or a history of success like say a Liverpool, Manchester United or Arsenal should be using every possible mechanism to claim trophies and build a culture of success. Jose Mourinho understood this when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004 for the first time and still understands what is at stake.
It could be argued that the bigger the budget the more necessary it is to achieve results. Thus this makes the obligation to play attractive and open soccer less wise. It could be strongly argued that the easiest way to achieve results that involves fulfilling the desire of investors and sponsors of the club is to set up like Jose Mourinho does in critical away matches.
Building a winning culture is not about slick passing football, and mouthwatering movement. It is about winning trophies, achieving maximum results and creating a fear factor in the opposition. Few managers on the planet do this better than Jose Mourinho. His former protégé Brendan Rodgers would be wise to have taken some notes on Sunday and to impart the lessons in his coaching dossier for the future.