Tottenham Hotspur await the arrival of Premier League leaders, Liverpool. Spurs’ swanky new stadium overlooks the Duke Aldridge Academy of Excellence. The Tottenham players’ bus when it makes way to the stadium will pass by the academy to the right where its motto reads “Inspire to Excel.” Sitting seventh on the table with 30 points, with two losses and a draw in their last five league fixtures, Jose Mourinho’s men will have to excel their standards to inspire all concerned tonight. The visitors, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are in a feisty mood with five wins in five league fixtures and know that they have a score to settle.
We look at a couple of the talking points in what should prove to be the most exhilarating match-up in the Premier League gameweek:
Jose Mourinho vs Jurgen Klopp, a contrast of styles and fortunes
In 2016, the newly-appointed Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho walked into a commercial promotion footed by the Premier League. The presenter gleeful at the prospect to build up the strength of England’s top-level league proceeded to list the names of the managers and the corresponding clubs. “Pep Guardiola - Manchester City, Arsene Wenger - Arsenal, Antonio Conte - Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp - Liverpool, and now Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. We have got the greatest managers in the world.” In response, Jose Mourinho said, “Except Klopp.”
Klopp came with the reputation as a tub-thumper, miscast as only a motivational manager, someone who jumps and bellows like a Viking on the touchline and little else. The English media were only party right. Klopp was all of those things, and also one of the best football tacticians in the world. Someone who three-time Champions League winner, Carlo Ancelotti is proud to call a good friend, and an intellectual equal.
Almost four years later, Klopp has won the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup in one fell swoop, in one calendar year. ‘Don’ Fabio Capello, the man who revolutionised Italian football tactics with the successful deployment of the Catenaccio, seated next to Klopp at the 2019 UEFA awards lead the standing ovation for the German when he was awarded as the best Coach in Europe. A podium where Mourinho of the past would have used to self-aggrandize his achievements, Klopp took the opportunity to talk about Juan Manuel Mata’s NGO, Common Goal, that commits one percent of someone’s salary to alleviate the ails of society.
Elsewhere, Mourinho was roaming from one TV football panel discussion to another. His sharp contours were sandpaper-ed by humility. Fans took delight in his Champions League football analysis with once rival Arsene Wenger, the same man who was involved in a shoving match at Stamford Bridge. Wenger has since found his peace and place as FIFA’s Head of World Development, while Mourinho was headed into a piacular as the new manager of Tottenham Hotspur, like a man who is desperate for a redemption arc. This Jose Mourinho is more human and vulnerable, and perhaps even a better person with a touch of zen.
Here are his quotes following their 1-1 draw vs Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, heading into this match.
“The world doesn’t end at the end of the season. End of the season just symbolises an end of a small period of time. We have a few months to fight for the results and Liverpool are next. yesterday I was watching Liverpool play and I thought this is the best team in the world at this moment.
“Jurgen (Klopp) arrived in Liverpool in 2015. He’s had a few years with eight transfer windows with a lot of players coming and going; and even more important than that, time for him to put his philosophy, to put his training methods, and his fingerprints on his club. Beautiful, beautiful results as a consequence. Fantastic work, step-by-step, phase-by-phase. I think in the first season they finished mid-table, and now four years later they are the not just the world champions, but I believe one the best teams of the decade. So, no panic. I’m calm.”
From being a manager whose calling card was ‘expediency,’ who used to have the blank cheques to throw at every and each problem during his successful spells at Chelsea, is having to un-corrupt his managerial process from the top down. The man who would rather splash 50 million than being patient with an academy prospect doesn’t have that option any more under tight-fisted Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. Jose Mourinho, once who didn’t regard Klopp fit to be spoken in the same breath as him, has now become the yardstick, the benchmark, the model.
Klopp is on his way to becoming an Anfield immortal this season as the manager who could win Liverpool the league in 30 years. Despite the admiration, comparison always bears a smidge of resentful at the fortunes of your opposing number, and Mourinho no matter how reformed with his newly acquired palate for attacking football, may not let good manners come in the way of a chance of getting one over an unbeaten Klopp team.
Will the cynical, cloak and dagger signature Mourinho anti-futbol show its face again? Will be pulled back into the dark side? He's no stranger to sabotaging a Liverpool title bid. Relying on getting under the skin and time-wasting tactics he pulled cold water on Brendan Rodgers’ run a few years ago. If anyone is capable of upsetting this Liverpool team, it's Jose Mourinho.
Plan B if necessary for Jurgen Klopp
Klopp is fully prepared for a match of attrition at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. “We are expecting a strong-willed performance from Tottenham with an emphasis on defending and counter-attacks.” Christian Eriksen, Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura, Lo Celso, Aurier, Sessegnon were singled out as players in Tottenham’s midfield who have breakneck speed on the counter and inertia.
Klopp went onto say, “We have to be unpredictable.”
The usual ploy against a Klopp team is the long ball that puts the onus on the high defensive line to always be prepared to play offside. With the aforementioned talent at Tottenham’s disposal, they have the arsenal to run in behind Liverpool’s defenders. However, they will not have Harry Kane as their targetman. Consequently, it could mean the onus will be on playing the ball to the feet of the Spurs runners beyond the last man and keeping possession.
The question on Mourinho’s court is whether he’ll structure his formation to Liverpool’s strengths or theirs. A 3-5-2 if deployed will point towards the former and will have Sadio Mane and Mo Salah licking their lips.
There’s also the concern of the lightness of grafters in Mourinho’s midfield with the absences of Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko. There’s also the sluggishness on the transition that Tottenham will need to address. This weakness that was laid bare by Mourinho’s former team Manchester United.
Klopp believes he has a plan B ready for Mourinho. How much Mourinho unwittingly adds to the ease of the integration of the plan may be told when the team sheets come out.
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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2020 14:06:18 IST