Jose Mourinho Tactical Thinking – Part 3


One of the many nice surprises on the “NSCAA Jose Mourinho Tactical Thinking Course’ was the fact that he brought his entire staff along with him for the presentation. Mourinho’s staff included Rui Faria, Aitor Karanka,  Silvino Louro, Luis Campos, Santiago Lozano, Carlos Lalín and José Morais. Each of them would discuss the area in which they specialized in. Like Mourinho himself, the presentation was a lesson in attention to detail and the neccessary steps for a top European club to function. Despite joking and looking comfortable in each others company, this was a group of professional men who believed that wins and losses are all in the detail. The first thing that struck me, was that fact that they had a few academics among them, who have studied at top universities across Europe and were well aware of how to collect and analyze information that would be vital in helping to develop methods and programs.

Up first was Mourinho’s high profile assistant coach, Rui Faria. Faria is well know to be Mourinho’s right hand man, never too far away from him on the Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid benches. Faria is always referred to as a ‘Fitness Coach’, however, Mourinho dismissed that label right away. He explained to us that Faria has the same sports science qualifications as himself, so would refuse to give him that title. As Faria began his presentation, you could tell that it was not a million miles away from that of Mourinho’s views himself. His first slide, he explained, is the philosophy that guides the team with their training methods. (See Below)

The language barrier made this slightly difficult to understand through the chart, but luckily Faria explained it very well. Basically, the “Operationalization of Complexity” is all the areas within the football department that they have to work with. They then study at this model with the playing personnel available and find out what style of play will be most effective. With that determined, Faria and Mourinho can then work together to make sure that the training methodology is geared towards this style and is always connected to the game. Personally, I see both Mourinho and Faria look first at the desired destination for the team, and plan backwards to great effect. Faria added that there was a “Play Culture” that he defined as players knowing exactly what their individual roles and the collective roles are within the team. This is where Mourinho wishes to arrive to.

Easy right? Not quite. Faria certainly does not believe that his role is straightforward. “The most difficult thing is getting the right exercises. The one that the manager thinks about and helps select the best ones.” As Faria discussed training methodology, Mourinho could not help himself from getting involved. Mourinho explained that the selection of training exercises should always be consistent with the way you would like to play. “You can’t create a contradiction with the idea you want for the game.” Mourinho added, “If your team does not play from the back during the game, do not incorporate this in to your exercises.” He went on to answer what the rest of the world has always questioned: Where does he get his training drills/exercises?  ”Don’t go to books or websites.First decide how you want to play. Think about it and sleep on it. From that idea, the exercise then arrives.” Mourinho was on a roll and then explained how he and his staff got the players to perform the expected tasks when they are required most: during a game. “Some players are smart and can see what you are asking them to do. Other players are not as smart and these players are usually pure intuition. They learn what to do because they learn automatic movements without thinking.” I think this is another example of why Mourinho is a players coach. All players can relate to his work on the training ground as he has different objectives for both, and keeps it all within his framework.

Rui Faria then touched upon the details of the training sessions. Each session would include tactical, technical, physical and cognitive elements. Again, Faria explained with the help of a chart how these all came together in a session. (See table below). The “Competitive/ Intensity” created concentration and awareness for the players. The “Details of the Sessions” included space, number of players, and principles. The “Pattern and Repetition” referred to the organization of what tactical element they were looking to work on that week. The end result was “Creation of Habits” which they believed would take them through games with the desired level of performance and result.

Jose Morais was next up and he covered ‘Team Analysis’. His task was a complex one – analyze games and answer all the demands for the manager. He did not mind sharing that Mourinho was a hard man to work for, because he constantly focuses on small details. He breaks a game down by focusing on the ‘Offensive’ and ‘Defensive’ organization of a team. Offensively, Morais looks at  the following:

– Style of play

– Change of rhythm and direction

– Game orientation (What is their focus in getting the ball?)

– Do they have talented players who can cause problems?

Defensive organization focuses on shape, marking patterns, and breaking the team into sections e.g. Do attacking players pressure the ball immediately after losing it? The attention to detail in these reports was always of the highest degree because that is the base of how you prepare for a match, Morais explained. However, Mourinho was quick to point out that the information given to the players could not be as detailed. “Do not give thousands of information pieces to players.” Mourinho added, “It has to be short and objective.” Well aware of the attention span of a modern day footballer, Mourinho does not bombard the players with all the information in one meeting. Instead, there is a a video produced with 2/3 clips of each area of attention. During the week before a game at Real Madrid, this video is constantly playing in the locker room, medical room, cafeteria, and weights room. Another great example of influencing players with methods that may be slightly different to everyone else.

As the presentation continued, they covered the Scouting and Recruitment of Players. The biggest factors in bringing in a player to Real Madrid are the needs of the team, injuries, and the marketplace. He explained that, after initially watching a player play 6-8 times on TV or specialized websites, they then watch the player 2-3 times live. When evaluating a player, they look at the following:

– Connection with the ball

– Connection with ball and opponent

– Connection with ball and teammate and opponent

– Connection with ball and teammates and opponents

After evaluating the player, they then report back to Mourinho with a grade between 1-5 of how much they value the player. Mourinho makes the call but seems more than comfortable to trust his staff to evaluate the talent level needed to play for the Spanish giants.

Goalkeeper Coach, Silvino Louro, used a lot of diagrams and bar charts to show the training patterns of goalkeepers. Most of the factors he talked about related to physical rather than technical. The records of injuries went down to sessions, days, times, and always looked for patterns and any correlation they could find. If the keeper was fit enough and could train for periods of high intensity, he had a good chance of success they felt. There has not been much turnover in that department at Real Madrid for quite some time, so this possibly was the easier task of the coaching staff. When we watched the two training sessions, Iker Casillas arrived first for both and I was impressed by his workrate, especially with his warm-up routines involving his footwork.

Mourinho concluded the presentation with a short Q&A. He told us that he does not have role models in the game. Instead, he explained, his family and parents are the ones he looks up to. He also learns more from his players than fellow coaches, because he does not have enough time to share things with coaches. When asked what is the most difficult aspect in working with today’s global stars, Mourinho replied that the getting the players to “think as a team” is a great challenge. “Every player has money, entourage, influences, so the first and most important step is to learn how to live together, in a team philosophy.” The last question was certainly the most intriguing as Mourinho was asked how he handles he weaknesses. He explained that every team has a weakness and, like everyone else, he tries to hide. He focuses on his strengths and did exactly this as he made one last comment regarding having to act like he was perfect to everyone outside the room. He then jumped off the stage and went straight to practice, not wanting to miss the preparation time needed before the session started. Although, having just  listened to his assistant coaches, I think they probably had it covered.

Jose Mourinho Tactical Thinking – Part 2


Having read so much about the Jose Mourinho “coaching experience”, I felt as though I was taking my place in the stands for something very special. Like his presentation earlier on that day, it did not disappoint. I can honestly say that every aspect of the training session was done with a higher level of organization, quicker tempo, and a degree of quality that I have ever before witnessed. Clipboard on his side and always directing the exercises, the biggest thing that impressed me watching Mourinho was that he was actually coaching! His voice carried throughout the session while his body langauge was always positive and animated. Do not let the expensive suits on match day fool you, Mourinho is a “tracksuit manager” and his methods involve him and his staff working almost as hard as the players. With the exercises changing as quickly as Ronaldo and Kaka were driving past players, I have done my best to record as much of the two practice sessions as possible.

First Session:

The players began with a warm-up with Assistant Coach, Rui Faria. This was dynamic and static stretching combined with speed and agility work. This lasted for 15 minutes.

After this, the players walked over to the session. There were 20 players taking part in the main session. This did not include the goalkeepers, who were working together alongside the Goalkeeper Coach. The players were split up into two teams, and then split again into four teams of five.

The multi-functional session involved two parts. The two teams of five on the inside played 5v5. The two teams of five on the outside (A and B) did speed, agility work combined with shooting. The first player played two wall passes into the coach, before performing ladder work and going through mannequins and finishing with a shot. After the shot, player retrieved his ball from the goal and joined the back group B. Therefore, groups A and B were constantly rotating so that the players got about 5 shots in. (See diagram below)

You can see a short video on the quality of shooting at – look out for the Ronaldo strike at the end.

The group inside playing 5v5 did so inside approximately a 30×15 yard area. The blue team defended the goals marked “A” and the red team defended the goals marked “B”. There was a half-way line which prevented the the players from scoring within their own half. (See diagram below)

Team Shape:

After a short break, the team then moved across to the other field where the next exercise took place. The goalkeepers joined the team and they set up to play 11v11. The field was organized with a 20×40 grid inside the halfway line. Both teams played a 4-2-3-1 formation and Mourinho carefully explained the patterns that they would work on. After one team finished their pattern play with an attempt on goal, the other team then performed the same pattern on the other goal. (See diagram below)

First Pattern:

Ball starts with the goalkeeper.

1 – Keeper plays the ball to the right fullback

2 – Right fullback passes to center back

3 – Center back opens up the play and passes to advancing fullback on other side

4 – Left fullback passes ball inside to center midfielder

With these four passes building up the attack, it allows the team to advance further forward as a unit, thus allowing the outside fullbacks to move beyond the halfway line.

5 – Center midfielder plays wide to advancing right back

6 – Right back plays into center forward

7 – Center forward sets attacking midfielder

8 – Attacking midfielder can play either forward who is high up the field.

The four attacking players then combine for a finish, sometimes taking another five passes.

Second Pattern:

The second attacking pattern from play again started from the goalkeeper and worked the ball across the back four initially, allowing the team to push up as a unit.

1 – Keeper played the left back

2 – Left back passes to center back

3 – Center back passes to other center back

4 – 2nd center back plays the ball into the midfield and then goes for the return

5 – Midfielder plays a return to central defender in the midfield zone

Once the central defender ‘bounces’ the ball off the center midfielder

6 – Central defender plays ball into center forward

7 – Center forward drops the ball back to attacking midfielder

8 – Attacking midfielder then plays the ball to either wide forward. Forwards then combine passes for a finish.

The four attacking players then combine for a finish, which sometimes took another five passes.

Both patterns took 10 minutes each.

Small Sided Game:

The Real Madrid players then took a 3 minute break before resuming on the same field. The six forwards involved in the pattern play before were then split up. Three of them became neutral players in the 7v7 game, while the other three did some functional training on the field adjacent.

The field was reduced and the players played a 7v7 game with 3 neutral players. The neutral players always played for the attacking team and combine with the midfielders for a shot on goal. (See below)

Tactical Game:

The session finished with a tactical game. Six reds, along with four yellows, played against ten blue players in a tight area. The yellow players were forwards from the earlier sessions and were placed in yellow, as oppose to red like their teammates, in order to highlight their movement. The objective of the game was to play the ball out from the back under pressure, and find the yellow players high up the field. The blue team were ordered to press/pressure the ball in numbers at all times. Even at this level, the success rate was not very high, but the tempo and pressure on the ball put a huge emphasis on movement by the attacking players and it was still all performed at a high level.

After changing the attacking players, along with the reds and blues changing roles, they performed one set each of ten minutes. The players then stretched together for ten minutes before concluding the practice


Session 2:

The second session of the day took place at 5pm. Again, the Real Madrid players did a 15 minute warm-up routine with Rui Faria before taking a short water break and playing 8v2′s in a small area for ten minutes. This exercise was designed to get the players loose and was not part of the main session.

1st Exercise:

Players were split into two groups of ten. Five players were inside the grid with a ball each and five players stood outside the grid. On the coaches first whistle, the players inside the grid dribbled around under no pressure for ten seconds. The second whistle allowed the players on the outside to come in and challenge them, only after doing the short explosive exercise at the cones. The players inside the grid had to protect their ball for 10 seconds. On the third whistle, both sides recovered back to their initial starting position. The exercise lasted for four minutes before the players inside and outside the grid changed places. Overall, there were two sets before the players took a break.  (See diagram below)

2nd Exercise:

The squad was split into two groups and each one worked inside the 18 yard box. Four reds attacked four blues, with two yellow players acting as neutral players. The objective was to create chances playing in a tight, congested 18 yard box. Different movement patterns were used by the attacking team, while the blues made sure they always pressed the ball and kept a solid line. If the blues did win the ball back, they were to try and keep possession while the red team tried to win it back as quick as possible. This added a transitional aspect to the exercise, which Rui Faria had earlier told us was crucial. (See below)

Exercise 3:

The Real Madrid squad then moved on to what looked like a simple possession exercise with target players. However, this was a lot more tactical than I first believed. The target players outside the area (in yellow) were all the defenders – Pepe, Ramos, Arbeloa,Varane etc. The target players instructions were to ‘bounce’ the ball off a player in the middle, and switch the point of attack to another yellow, who would attempt to do the same. With a small area and a lot of players, this would seem like a difficult exercise. However, with the red and blue players both opting to play the ball straight back to a yellow player and let them change the point of attack, it really flowed well.

You can see in the diagram below that the short combination passes (1 and 3) draw in the opposition, while the long passes (2 and 4) open the play up. This is a pattern that you will see time and time again when watching the back four in possession at Real Madrid.

Tactical Pattern Play:

The team then moved across to the other field to work on pattern play. Similar to earlier in the day, the attacking team (red) were set up with three attackers playing high and wide, and then with a withdrawn forward so it looked as if they were attacking with four high up the pitch. Blues were set-up to defend with seven players ( a back four with three center midfielders), while the reds attacked with eight (four across the midfield and four high up top).

First Pattern:

The pattern started with a continuation from the last exercise. The ball went across the back four and ‘bounced’  into the midfielder as the defender then opened up the play to the other side. After this happened three times, the fullback received the ball and looked forward (1) . As he opened up, the outside forward checked out of his area, creating space for the center forward to go in (3). The fullback the played a ball down the line for the forward to come onto and try to get turned (2). When the forward received the ball, the other forwards had already made their way to the box to combine for a finish. (See diagram below)

Second Pattern:

This again involved the ball being circulated across the midfield line for three/four times before the attack started. This time when the full back received the ball (1), he passed it short to the outside forward (2). The outside forward came inside with the ball (3) and the center forward check into space in the channel, creating space (4). The outside forward then played a cross field pass to the other outside forward (5) who had space to create a shot on goal himself, or combine with a supporting player.

The last 15 minutes of training involved a 9v9 game in a small area with plenty of opportunities for attacks and shots on goal. Despite the second session of pre-season training, when Jose Mourinho called time on the game, the players were complaining and begging to continue. I was right there with them. Following two training sessions with this kind of organization and quality, I could have kept watching very easily. Mourinho was having none of it however. The backpack was on and he was done for the day. The rest of us were not too hard done by: I got to experience something that was very special indeed, and the players get to do it all again the very next day. Everyone is a winner with Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho Tactical Thinking – Part 1


I have been a fan of Jose Mourinho for many years. When the opportunity came to watch him work first hand with Real Madrid in Los Angeles, I signed up for the NSCAA Course right away. I have observed numerous training sessions at professional clubs with top coaches before, but this was different. I expected to get an insight to how he worked on the practice field and hear his football philosophy – what I got however, was much, much more. An insight to life at the top end of world football, a chance to see what level of organization it takes to be successful, and what techniques are used to get the best out of the best. To summarize the course in one blog would do it an injustice. Therefore, I will do three blogs that will cover his training sessions, the work of his staff, including right-hand man, Rui Faria, and this current blog, his presentation on his leadership and philosophies.

I just arrived on campus at UCLA to register for the NSCAA event on Sunday afternoon when Jose Mourinho and his assistant coaches were on the way to the training pitch for the afternoon session. Initially, I thought this trip would be both a public relations and commercial exercise for the Spanish giants, so expected Mourinho to be all smiles and signing autographs. He did sign a few but I did not witness a smile. A familiar face at the entrance to the field greeted him warmly and welcomed him back to UCLA. ”Welcome back Jose, look forward to catching up after your session”, the official said with excitement. “How is the pitch?” was Mourinho’s quick response. That was  my first sign of why he is so successful. All business. When the boots were on and the clipboard was by his side, he had time for only work. Professional, polite, but here to do a job with his team.

The hugely anticipated presentation for the NSCAA group, took place in between two training sessions. Mourinho brought his staff along (six in total) who would take turns in discussing their role in the Real Madrid empire. Mourinho himself would discuss his beliefs and leadership. As he introduced his staff, Mourinho pointed out that they were all wearing fluorescent yellow Adidas shirts “like traffic wardens”. He explained that the reason for this was for the players to know the difference between coaches and players, both on and off the field. Coaches have to stand out at all time so players must not pass them the ball by mistake. Very simple, he stated, “but it works very well for us.” Mourinho’s first slide was titled, “The Secret of Our Success.” The bullet points were:

– Leadership

– Group/ Team

– Connections

– Relationships

He told us that these were not in order of importance, and instead felt that relationships were vital because “when things go bad, relationships keep control and balance in the team.” Mourinho then discussed the types of leadership that are consistent with his approach.

Charismatic Leadership

This is something which he has become famous for. I would define it as the “Special One” image that has become synonymous with his managerial style. He started by explaining that this brings a lot of negatives by the media because of the focus on image and the fact that it opens the door to criticism. However, it is clear that he believes strongly in this form of leadership because of the effect it has on his players. The two areas he discussed were “non-traditional behaviors” and “sensibility for players needs”. Despite having not been a top player himself, experience has taught him to recognize what these needs are. As for “non-traditional behaviors”, he claims to “work on it and gamble with it”. The first thought that entered my head was the 100 yard dash down the sideline at Old Trafford when his Porto team scored to knock Manchester United out of the Champions League. A “gamble” that helped shape his career. His touchline behavior, which is sometimes controversial, is always planned. “I feel sometimes that I’m playing the game. And sometimes the players demand that of me.”

Transformational Leadership

Here Mourinho stressed “Intellectual Intelligence”. He explained to us that he wants his players thinking all the time, even if it means wondering what kind of response they will get from the coach. “Every player is a player, every man is a man”, Mourinho explained. He will treat them fairly, but not maybe not equally.  Different actions will trigger different responses.

Mourinho then began to discuss what is the most difficult side of leadership. He believes the goals of his group of players can sometimes be different from that of the club. He told us that he struggles to go from the effects on the group (team) to the club philosophy. He wants to control the group but has no interest in controlling the club itself. Common objectives and principles may not be consistent with club philosophy. Here, I believe Mourinho would have to fight a lot of his battles within the club structure. Perhaps commerical  or financial interests of the club, may conflict with how he would like to work. As he showed a photo of the victorious Real Madrid, he explained that “the end should always be just the start of it”. This will be a huge message to send to his current group of players as this is only the third club he will have spent over two years with.

Emotional Intelligence

For me, this was the most interesting topic that Mourinho covered because it gave us an insight into two managerial skills that separate him from the rest: how he motivates and deals with pressure. “Books help but you have to be in the active life to understand.” He defined Emotional Intelligence as:

– Coping with Pressue

– Sharing Emotions

– Create Forever Links

Mourinho copes with pressure by training himself and his people. Again, he is always consciously aware of messages he is sending by his actions and body language. How he gets players and teams to stick together and work hard, Mourinho said, “I motivate others with my own motivation. Your motivation must be the engine so the players must then go with you.” This led him to explain how he always tries to create a family atmosphere where he works, to the extent that he uses his own family as a framework.

“I have no problems to kiss, cry with, or kick my players. Everything belongs to the family. I learn this from my wife and my own family. In my family, we are open to be criticized by my kids and the same applies to my players. You must be open in order to share emotions and ideas.”

Mourinho then asked his staff how long they have been working together. When one informed him that it has been since 2001, Mourinho then explained that he and his staff have worked with many players over the past 12 years, but when they move on to another club, they never view the player as an ex-player. Instead, once you play for Mourinho and his staff, you are always one of ‘theirs’. “Forever is forever”, he told us. This is a unique bond that is not evident in professional football. Again, by creating this bond with the players, he can get top performances for a long period of time.

Integrated Leadership

He touched briefly on this and defined it as every aspect of training. The “complexity of operation” means that if one aspect of their work is not where they need it to be, it can have effect other areas. Therefore, Mourinho’s attention to detail is not limited to tactics or training techniques, but instead to every aspect of the club that can effect his players.

As Mourinho handed the microphone over to his coaching staff, his presentation was never quite done. He sat on the edge of his chair and constantly added or politely interrupted his assistant coaches as they explained their role in the club. He believes in the complexity of each relationship at the football club and so must manage it accordingly. He looks at his players as people, who need to be managed, motivated, and given special attention to. He also understands the importance of his own behavior. Although he admits having to “gamble” with his actions, he is always in control of them and that is key. Top players must love it, and most importantly, they respond to it. I would suggest that the ‘special one’ tag would be used just as much by these players, as the fans and media.

England 4-4-2 vs France 4-3-3

England have 8 defenders to shut down France’s 6 attackers + 2 outside backs (Debuchy and Evra) that might attack.

When France attack with outside backs, England will have Young and Welbeck to counter with against 3 defenders, one of whom is not quick.

Expect possession to be 65-35 in France’s favor at half time. Shots will probably be 10-2 for France, with 2 on target, 4 wide and 4 blocked. England’s 2 will be both wide.

Oxlade-Chamberlain may have been put in to keep Debuchy pinned back more.

The longer England can frustrate France the more they will have a chance to counter.

If France score early, this will be a difficult game for England because they will get tired chasing the ball and not have enough energy to sustain attacks.

If England are losing, expect Walcott, Downing and Carroll to come in and make an impact in 2nd half. Walcott can beat Evra. Carroll can get on the end of crosses from both sides (Ox will tend to come inside).

Will Gerrard have the composure to take a good penalty kick if Young goes down for a PK?

A draw will be a sound result for both teams. Interesting to see how open the game becomes as players get tired.

Czech Republic threatened early and scored within 15 minutes of 2nd half, but importantly, Russia did not sit back and go into their shell. They continued to attack and got their reward with 2 further goals to win 4-1. 

Russia look good defensively and even though they cede territory, they pass the ball well on the break in the attacking third. 

Czech Republic have good possession but no physical cutting edge up front and at the back they are weak when asked to defend the counter. 

Will CR change their shape? They have to become more clinical in attack, but they are leaving themselves open to counters and Russia look very assured on the break.

First 15 minutes of 2nd half is critical. If Russia can survive, then the CR will attack more and Russia will kill them off with 1 or 2 more goals.

If CR score in 1st 15 minutes, Russia may go into their shell and become too defensive, thereby possibly letting in a tying goal.

Here you can see the formations of both teams – 4-2-3-1 of CR and 4-3-3 of Russia.


My prediction 3-0 Russia.

Will be interesting to see 4-2-3-1 of Czech against 4-3-3 of Russia.

Czech Republic starting lineup

Russia starting lineup

#2 Selassie looks good overlapping RB.

#15 Baros lots of good movement

Russia struggling to keep possession.

Game set up for Russian counter.

15′ Russia goal!

19′ another Russian counter and chance!

Russia starting to find space between the lines.

CR look dangerous from set plays. Organized.

24′ Russia look dangerous on break.
Russia 2-0!!!

30′ CR get free kick on right. Needless foul by Arshavin.

Russia target player is reference point for Russia attack and bringing in wide players.

Russia old squad. Won’t be inexperienced in lead. Fitness?

Half time.

Cissé 1-1!! Lescott what have you done???? had to be a horror show for QPR to score.

Will QPR go back to their defensive formation?

Can Lescott make up for mistake by scoring from a corner?

Barton makes a stupid decision – this could actually make it more of a Chelsea-Barca situation? Now QPR will not come out.

OMG, QPR 2-1!!! 3 attacks 2 goals!

So much for my first prediction of this blog!

Situation made for Ballotelli and Lescott. Worst away record vs. Best home record. Who would have thunk it? Mancini is going to have a coronary.

75 minutes in – Balotelli on. Bothroyd on for Zamora.

Now Stoke 2 Bolton 2. More reason for QPR not to attack even if City equalize.

81′ – City are losing heart – need to keep moving. Get the center backs up and attack! Forwards are panicking and snatching at the ball.

79 mins. Can City and Sunderland equalize to give championship to City??

85′ quality of crossing is poor. Need to get to goal line and cut ball back. Early crosses are food and drink to Ferdinand.

87′ City devoid of ideas. Mancini is going ape.

City look tired. can’t get ball off QPR. QPR winning every header. Forwards too static.

92′ Dzeko. 2-2!

94′ Aguero 3-2!!!!

Told you at half time City would score 3!!!!

Last 5 minutes of 2011-12 EPL season