Life is about evolving, and economy of motion is one of those things we strive for. How do we do the things we have to do every day in the cleanest way possible? Mostly it’s about financial budgeting, but there comes a part in everyone’s life when you decide what you really need in your house and in your life (people, pets, cars, comic book collection, Physical Graffiti on vinyl). All of this is about reducing clutter, running smoothly... efficiency.
So you have to hand it to Jose Mourinho, who has boiled down the cycle he and any club he manages goes through from years to mere months. You know how it goes: Mourinho arrives with a big smile, cracks jokes, talks about how great the players he has to work with on hand are. And the first few matches, maybe even season, are aces. They win, it seems like Mourinho has turned a new leaf, fans get hopeful, and you have to remark to yourself that Mourinho has a whole room filled with trophies, and that he can’t be a moron, so maybe he’s just rediscovered his touch. Maybe the failures in the interim weren’t down to him completely, just one of those things.
And then something goes wrong, and then it all goes wrong. The defensive ways limit goal scoring and chances created. Players don’t quite work as hard off the ball as the season goes on, buckling ever so slightly under Mourinho’s punishing style both on the field and off. Results start to turn odd colors in the sun. Goals completely dry up.
And then Mourinho lashes out. Whether it’s the press or his own players, someone or multiple someones are getting chucked in front of the nearest bus, the one he tried to park in front of his own net. It only gets worse as he can’t turn results around, reports start to leak that the players are absolutely miserable, Mourinho starts citing his trophy collection in defense of criticism (a collection that gets more and more in the rearview), until finally he and the team are put out of their misery and split. And then it starts all over again somewhere else.
It only took less than two years for Mourinho to run through all of this at Tottenham. But at Roma, where he shockingly landed almost immediately after getting whacked by Spurs, he seems determined to boil it down to less than one year.
It all started so well, because those are the first steps in the process. Roma won their first three league games, and four of the first five, capped off by a dramatic last-minute winner in Mourinho’s 1000th game as manager that launched a Braveheart charge down the touchline from Mourinho when all things seemed as rosy as could be. Had he enjoyed life this much in a decade?:
Roma scored nine goals in those first three games, new signing Tammy Abraham seems to be flourishing with a starting role he couldn’t get at Chelsea, and Jordan Veretout and Henrikh Mikhtarayan seemed to be a midfield with plenty of fireworks. Jose had us fooled again. Maybe Italy was all he needed. After all, the last time he was in the country, he was winning everything in sight with Inter. Maybe it’s just the place.
Roma have won only five of the next 13 in Serie A, and have sunk to ninth in the standings. Perhaps more hurtful is they’ve lost every tussle with the country’s big boys they’ve had a look at, piling up Ls to Juventus, Milan, and getting utterly thwacked by Inter last weekend. They did manage a draw with Napoli, but also lost the Rome derby to Lazio in that time. Not peachy keen.
The last loss to Inter caused a pretty choice Mourinho meltdown, though it’s only at Defcon 1 as it was directed at the press. When he gets to firebombing his own players in the press, that’s when you know it’s battle stations.
It’s the usual indicator of doom, as the attack has gone flaccid, with Roma only managing 12 shots on target in their last four games. The defense is starting to creak too, with Milan, Venezia, and Inter pretty much running riot in the past five games. They’ve been decidedly ropy on set pieces too, which used to be a Mourinho staple. Where is the safe haven he runs to?
Mourinho hasn’t been helped by Lorenzo Pelligrini’s injury, as he was what really made things go in midfield. But injuries are a part of the thing.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering which player Mourinho has scapegoated, you can be cheery in that it’s a Yank, as Bryan Reynolds has been given just one appearance off the bench and has even been allowed to join up with the USMNT’s December camp for MLS players out of season. So that’s going well.
There’s probably some relief for supporters of the Giallorossa that this looks to be all contained into one season instead of dragging out and ruining multiple and further hampering the club. Then again, neither Tottenham nor Man United got the next guy right either, so perhaps the gaseous cloud that Mourinho leaves behind just takes time to ventilate out. At least Roma will probably get a quicker start on that than the others.