A huge public disdain over the board’s lack of spending? Check. Hanging out players to dry? Check. Blaming every man & his dog for a poor run of results? Yes, it would appear that Jose Mourinho is reverting to his typecast persona yet again, as the ‘third-season syndrome’ discussion starts to gain traction. In the past, the Portuguese has gained a reputation for having 2 positive seasons with a club, before totally collapsing in the final one- usually resulting in him being fired.
Already the discussion within the FPL community has pointed itself towards avoiding Manchester United assets based on this widely-held belief that Mourinho’s past form suggests he fails to sustain performances for the long term. Given that the Red Devils are typically a well-backed club in FPL, I wanted to see whether these presumptions held water from a fantasy perspective, and potentially discover if there were any myths which could be busted in the process. In this article I’ll be analysing all of Jose Mourinho’s 3rd seasons in charge at clubs throughout his managerial career, to spot emerging trends. I’m going to be mentioning certain statistics throughout this article. For the purpose of simplicity, I’ve rounded all stats to the nearest whole number.
To give Mourinho’s data some perspective, we’ll begin by briefly looking at Manchester United’s 2017/18 campaign. Last season United finished in 2nd, 19 points behind winners Manchester City. In that Premier League season, Jose Mourinho used 27 different players, with just 4 starting in at least 30 PL matches. Whilst this sounds like a low number, the average number of players used across all 20 Premier League clubs was 26, with an average of 4 per club starting at least 30 matches- which suggests that United were no more prone to rotation than the vast majority of teams. Whilst this calculated average data only focuses on one season, it’s a suitable benchmark for the rest of the data that is to come.
It seems a long time ago since we saw Jose galloping down the touchline in jubilation as a last-gasp winner saw Porto knocking Manchester United out of the Champions League, but Jose’s first ever 3rd season in charge of a club was the making of him as a manager. In this season, Porto won the Portuguese League, before stunning everyone as they won the Champions League. Interestingly, Jose’s league win rate percentage was actually down on the previous season, winning 74% of matches compared to 79% the season before. In this 34 match campaign, Jose used a staggering 32 players, with just 4 starting at least 27 matches. His defence only conceded 19 league goals, and no team bettered Porto’s 63 goal tally- Benni McCarthy the top scorer with 20. This tenure would prove to be one of Jose’s least controversial roles, and the season as a whole was overwhelmingly successful.
This campaign was responsible for causing a fractured relationship between Mourinho and the Chelsea hierarchy. A huge dispute over the record signing of Andrei Shevchenko, with Roman Abramovich exerting huge pressure for the Ukrainian to play, set a poisonous undercurrent within the Blues.
However, the statistics don’t fully back this up for Chelsea’s Premier League campaign. Despite finishing 2nd the Blues were unbeaten at home, and picked up 22 clean sheets in the process. Moreover, Didier Drogba finished the season as the league’s top scorer with 20 goals. Jose’s team selection policy was also consistent, with 26 different players used in this campaign, just one more than in the previous season (in both seasons 4 players made 30 or more appearances). The only major blot on Jose’s season was his win-rate percentage, falling from 76% to 63%.
It was a season where Jose would win the FA Cup & League Cup, but behind-the-scenes difficulties with the board became so bad that he left Chelsea by mutual consent just a month into his 4th season in charge.
I won’t dwell on this spell for too long as Jose only spent 2 seasons in charge of the Nerazzurri. However, Jose endured an incredibly controversial campaign in his final year as the Inter boss. In the process of winning the treble, including the Champions League, he had multiple fallouts with the media and his peers. Highlights include picking up a 3 match ban for an ‘aggressive’ protest against Italian refereeing, and publicly slaughtering the performances of a 19 year old Mario Balotelli. His league win-rate percentage was down from 66% to 63%, and he used 26 different players, with an above-average 5 players making at least 30 league starts. Diego Milito was the division’s 2nd top scorer with 22 goals.
REAL MADRID 2012/13
If ever a manager wanted to place themselves into the affections of their club’s supporters, Jose did everything in his power to do the exact opposite- including telling them that other clubs love him more than his own fans do. After winning La Liga in 11/12 with an incredible 84% win rate, Madrid finished the following season with a win-rate of just 68% as they finished 15 points off Barcelona.
From a fantasy perspective, Jose’s selection policy was a mess: he used 31 different players, with only Cristiano Ronaldo starting 30 league games (compared to 6 the season before). Los Blancos’ defence was also decidedly poor, keeping just 11 clean sheets. However, attacking returns for Real were extremely strong: the team scored 103 times, with Cristiano Ronaldo responsible for 34 goals & Mesut Ozil creating a respectable 13 assists.
Jose Mourinho’s final season at Real Madrid was ultimately tempestuous. Despite a later run of just 1 loss in 21 games, the Portuguese started the season winning just 1 match in 4- including humiliating losses to Valencia and Getafe. Jose incurred the wrath of UEFA after a press-conference where he accused them of favouritism towards Barcelona. He also had very public spats with his senior players- with Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas the most prominent targets for his ire- all of which contributed to his sacking.
The most infamous campaign Jose Mourinho has ever had in his career. After a superb season where Chelsea won the title, Mourinho was sacked before Christmas after losing 9 out of 16 league games with the Blues just 1 point above the relegation zone (notable losses in that time include Bournemouth, Stoke, Southampton and Crystal Palace). We perhaps could have seen it coming after Chelsea failed to win a single pre-season match.
From an FPL perspective, Chelsea were an obvious horror-show. Their 25% win rate and 4 clean sheets were considerably below the standard expected. In their title-winning campaign, Jose used 25 players with 5 making at least 30 league appearances- including 3 who started every match; by comparison there were no ever-presents as 23 players were used in 16 matches, with only 6 starting at least 13 games. The goals dried up as Eden Hazard only mustered one goal in 15 appearances, with Diego Costa only bagging 3.
Prior to the point of being sacked, Jose went on a bizarre rampage, verbally attacking everybody and anybody to a point that went beyond comedy. He criticised Roman Abramovich for a poor standard of signings. He fell out with club-doctor Eva Carneiro during the first game, which led to a lengthy legal battle over gender discrimination, which was settled out of court. He was banned for a criticising referees, had numerous stilted press-conferences completely lost the dressing room. Finally, and quite possibly most ludicrously, he went on a tirade against a set of Leicester ball boys over the speed that they returned the ball- calling them ‘a disgrace’ before getting the sack.
While it’s obvious to stress that past form doesn’t necessarily guarantee a future outcome, based on the information provided above, we are able to notice certain trends about Jose Mourinho when it comes to his 3rd season in charge of a club:
- In every season, Jose’s league win-rate percentage declined.
- In Jose’s last 2 managerial stints, his defence massively failed him which contributed to his demise.
- With the exception of Chelsea 15/16, Jose’s teams generally score well in the 3rd season, with at least 1 player scoring 20+ goals.
With Manchester United’s pre-season form in a dire state, coupled with Jose Mourinho’s current antics & his playing staff currently in a state of disrepair, it already seems consistent with the Portuguese manager’s past form. Should this narrative continue, we can predict that Manchester United will fail to keep things solid at the back & will open the new campaign with a poor set of results (despite a reasonable fixture list)- but that their premium forwards won’t necessarily struggle to score goals. With this in mind, FPL managers will want to think twice about bringing in the Red Devils’ defence- but can perhaps be excused for taking a punt on attacking assets.