This week, almost all of the Champions League games, except for the one between Liverpool and Porto due to the strength differential, were extremely dull. All the teams, including favorites like Manchester City and Barcelona, used all of their strategies and tactics to prevent their opponents from attacking. Thus, only Liverpool scored two goals, as the other games were a total stalemate in which goals came from combinations of luck and individual talent.
Take the Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City game for example; neither side took the initiative and let their opponent play. Since no side was willing to play, long-balls into the unknown or ambitious dribbling into five defenders were the only means to score. The irony is that neither Tottenham nor Manchester City usually plays this way. Yes, City was the favorite, despite playing an away game, so Tottenham having some extra measures to stop its rival is understandable, but I do not understand why Mauricio Pochettino dedicated seven players to strictly defend, including his only playmaker Eriksen. What this did was basically eliminate all rational, repeatable actions to score for Tottenham and left the team bound to Son Heung-Min's individual talent, which he graciously showed near the end of the game.
On the other hand, Pep Guardiola's extremely cautious strategy was even less understandable, since he was able to beat Tottenham in the last four games occasions with his own dominant strategy. Still, Guardiola decided to circulate the ball not to create opportunities but to prevent Tottenham from having the ball. Hence the game was on the table for both sides to claim, but neither dared do it. That Tottenham won the game gives us no clue about the efficiency of their strategies and tactics since the game was 50-50 throughout the 90 minutes and Manchester City missed a penalty.
Pretty much the same story applies to the Barcelona-Manchester United game, with Barcelona circulating the ball forever and United trying to stop Barcelona's non-existing attacking plans. So, I did not see any Pochettino, Guardiola, Valverde or Solskjaer in these games, all I saw was the most fundamental form of Jose Mourinho. Games were just as how Mourinho wanted them to be: No one takes the initiative and everyone desperately looks for a simple mistake.
However, the managers who sold their souls to Mourinho for a draw were the same managers who proved him wrong in the last decade. Football is not a game driven by fear but joy and whoever takes the initiative has a better chance to win the game than their opponent.
These managers became successful by not solely preventing their opponent but by investing in their own means of scoring. They have already proven that if you organize your team enough and create sophisticated, repeatable strategies then you have more chances of winning. Therefore, there is no need to revive Mourinho's spirit when it has been proven to be inadequate many times.
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