Wanted: A European title for this smartly turned out gentleman
With the Serie turning into a dogfight between Inter, Roma, and Milan for the title, this season has been no walkover for the Nerrazzuri. The last four years have won them the Scudetto in such emphatic fashion that their rivals have been turned into Mourinho’s running gag of zero tituli. Sticking it to them is cathartic, a reason why he remains, while simultaneously proclaiming his hate for the Italian game.
A string of uneven performance in the last 10 matches show a fading Inter squad. With five draws, two losses, and three wins, the club cannot be said to be finishing strong.
With Roma on the rise with seven wins and no losses in the last 10 matches, including a brilliant win against Inter and outscoring their opponents 22 to 10, the Giallorossi are in the process of engineering a memorable sweep the carpet from under their feet title win.
Compounding the problem for Mourinho is his next two opponents are, Fiorentina away and Juventus at home whereas Roma play bottom dwellers Atalanta and Lazio. A loss or draw could bring the team under tremendous pressure for the remaining games.
At this point Mourinho has nothing to prove domestically. He is untouchable. His target should be the CL and he lies on the brink of doing so after four years of failure. Barca remains in his way. His energies should be devoted to the Himalayan task of finding a way to overcome them.
Jonathan Wilson’s brilliant article shines a light on the pressing nature of Barca’s game. To break that chokehold requires a physicality of a scale that has not yet been seen, nor proven successful. To even have a remote chance of doing that Mourinho needs a squad at full strength and ready to play undistracted.
Inter needs to gamble and go to man to man marking on Lionel Messi. Thiago Motta was delegated with that task against Didier Drogba and his hatchet job was so effective it resulted in the Cote D’Ivioirian’s ejection at Stamford Bridge. Drogba’s ineffectiveness sealed Inter’s passage into the quarterfinals.
Mourinho also has to shadow Xavi, whose precise passing and vision is the engine on which Barca motors on. One way to do this is to selectively press Xavi. The players closest to him with the best chances of disruption collapse around him every time he gets the ball. It is a factor of spatial closeness, circumstances, and information.
Isolating Xavi from the rest of the players provides less interconnectivity, disrupting the compact Barca game. The onus of providing the ball is forced onto someone less sure or more one dimensional. The end result of this exercise is to make Barca predictable. it requires a precise game plan and a singular purpose. Mourinho would be well advised to consciously spurn the demands of the domestic season to focus on the bigger prize: European supremacy.
Clearly, he has to make a decision. Should he channel all that physicality and effort for another pointless domestic silverware or strive for European supremacy. He was called onto doing just that by Massimo Moratti and he needs to deliver. Pull the plug, send in your second squad for the Serie fixtures at hand