There Is Little Evidence To Suggest That Players Improve Under José Mourinho, Yet There Is Plenty To Show That They Do Under Pep Guardiola. Why Is That?

Posted: March 31, 2018 in Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Liverpool, Managers, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur
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With the possible exception of Ashley Young, who has benefitted from lavish praise and plenty of game time since José Mourinho became the Manchester United manager, there is nothing to suggest that others have improved and, in fact, players such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba seem to have regressed.

By the time the Armenian left Old Trafford for Arsenal and the welcoming arms of Arséne Wenger, he almost looked a broken man. His confidence appeared to be shot to pieces and his last few appearances for United had seen him regularly substituted after poor displays during which he continuously gave the ball away. Hopefully, for his sake, he will fare better in London.

Paul Pogba came, as we all know, with the big price tag and the even bigger ego and reputation.

Even when he was in good form he only showed glimpses of what he is capable of and has since, like Mkhitaryan before him, seemed short on confidence. This resulted in him also being dropped and, when he has managed a few minutes on the pitch, he has been careless in possession and wide of the mark when shooting.

As regular readers will be aware we have questioned Mourinho’s ability to manage people in the past and it seems as though he isn’t learning from any of his mistakes. His way of handling Luke Shaw, for example, obviously isn’t working. The young left back is trying to respond but finding it very difficult as nothing he does seems to please his manager. He may well have to leave to get his career back on track.

Borussia Moenchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Bundesliga player of the year, then he went to play for Mourinho

So three players, two of whom Mourinho actually bought, are playing worse under him than they were under their previous managers. Mkhitaryan was the Bundesliga player of the year the season before he joined United and Pogba was the star at Juventus. What has gone wrong?

Is it the way Mourinho treats people? It has to be, there is no other explanation. Yes, they are occasionally asked to play out of position but, to a top professional footballer, that shouldn’t be a major problem.

How are they spoken to after a bad game or when they have simply done something during a match to displease their boss? The impression is that Mourinho can belittle people and make them feel inferior. The problem with this approach is that, if you use it on the wrong character, it can do untold damage to his self-belief and confidence.

As of yet, José Mourinho is yet to convince anyone that he actually improves individual players. He tends to discard them if they don’t do exactly as he wants and then he turns to the chequebook to try and solve any problems.

On the other hand…..

Pep Guardiola’s runaway leaders certainly contain some players who have improved under the Spaniard.

Having admitted defeat in his attempts to turn Claudio Bravo into a goalkeeper, he bought Ederson, a little known Brazilian, who has become one of the best keepers in the division. Probably selected by Guardiola as much for his ability with his feet as with his hands, he is the starting point for many of City’s attacks.

Kyle Walker is another who had reached his limit at Tottenham Hotspur and had been left out with Kieran Trippier being the preferred choice at left-back. Since moving to The Etihad however, Walker has improved so much that he is back to being first choice awith his country again, being picked over guess who? Yep, Kieran Trippier. (Although Southgate does occasionally look for ways to get them both in the team).


Nicolas Otamendi – Has shown definite signs of improvement under Guardiola

Nicolas Otamendi still has a mistake in him but now it only materialises every few games and isn’t always terminal. When he first arrived he could be counted on to cost his team a goal every three or four games by being caught out of position or by a rash tackle conceding a free-kick or a penalty. Now he looks more assured and it almost seems as though he has been shown what he needs to do. That may be over-simplifying Guardiola’s methods but he does appear to un-complicate the game for his players in a way no other manager seems able.

Despite the arrival of Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Agüero is still the top scorer and first choice and the main reason for this is that he has bought into the Guardiola way. He now runs and chases back more and is a more complete player.

Raheem Sterling, although clumsy sometimes in possession and wasteful with his passes, now gets in such good positions that he is the club’s second top scorer, Leroy Sané looks very comfortable in the team and rarely fails to contribute and Kevin De Bruyne has become one of the best players in the world.

So how come Guardiola has most of his team playing better than ever yet Mourinho is struggling to get the best out of his “stars”?

Although it is painful to admit it, as well as being the better coach, Guardiola also gets more out of his players because he manages them as humans much better than Mourinho and they, in turn, respond to being treated as such.


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