You only need to spend five minutes watching AFTV (which is five more than I’d recommend) to know that current Gunners boss Unai Emery is under pressure at the Emirates.
Performances on the pitch are failing to live up to the fans’ high expectations and it seems inevitable that sometime, probably soon, Emery will be catching a flight back to Hondarribia.
The board has denied that the Spaniard’s job is in jeopardy and has also denied that have had any contact with Jose Mourinho as a potential replacement. This is despite The Special One being spotted in the stadium for the Gunners recent Europa League clash vs Vitoria.
In football terms, that probably means that the club is just waiting for those Arsenal tracksuits with JM on the front to come back from the megastore before handing Emery his P45.
Fans are split on whether Jose is the right man to turn Arsenal back into the title-challenging team they once were so, let’s take a look at how well (or how badly) Mourinho would fit into the role of Arsenal boss.
No doubting that Jose Mourinho is box office.
He certainly has the status that the Arsenal fans are demanding and he also has the record to back up the billing.
Whilst Pep Guardiola is widely regarded as the best football manager in the world right now, his trophy haul still trails behind Jose… just! The pair have 17 major European titles each as managers but two Portuguese league titles and a Taca De Portugal win just give Mourinho the edge in terms of shiny things. His acquisition of said shiny things may have slowed in recent years but it’s still an impressive haul.
But, this is not the same impressive Jose who walked into Stamford Bridge in 2004. Recent appointments, particularly his spell at Old Trafford, have tarnished his reputation and despite his continuing work as his own hype man on various TV shows around Europe, his name doesn’t quite carry the same prestige it once did.
He proved throughout his career that he can win trophies but nowadays we’re probably talking more FA Cup than Champions League.
Most Arsenal fans would probably take that.
The Youth Development
Remember when Jose Mourinho walked into a Manchester United press conference waving a piece of paper bearing the name of 49 young players he had given debuts to (half of which only played one game under Jose)? Well, given Arsenal’s penchant for a bit of homegrown talent, you can expect a whole PowerPoint presentation if he were to get the manager’s gig.
It still wouldn’t be true though.
The Gunners may enjoy splashing the cash on the odd big signing, but they also have a proud tradition of promoting youth. You only have to look at the current crop including Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka, to see evidence of that.
Whereas such young Gunners have traditionally been given the opportunity to gain experience and prove their worth in the UEFA and League Cups, it would be unlikely that Jose would take the same risks.
Developing youth may be part of Arsenal’s DNA but it is not part of Mourinho’s.
You only have to look at the frustrations of the talented youngsters who sat waiting patiently for their chance during Jose’s second spell at Stamford Bridge (Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Dominic Solanke) to see he is a firm believer of the old adage “You’ll never win anything with kids”.
Mourinho has built his career on short-term success. An instant impact and a maximum stay of three years rather than a long-term plan or a project. In Jose’s world, there is nothing for him to gain from taking a risk on the players of tomorrow when you can rely on the proven players you have at your disposal or just buy in in the talent you need.
The Transfer Acumen
As I mentioned, the Gunners are no stranger to an extravagant purchase (Recently: Aubameyang – £55m, Lacazette – £45m, Pepe – £72m) but when it comes to the Premier League’s big spenders they aren’t in line at the same footballing ATM.
Everyone knows the deal with Mourinho: he comes with an expensive shopping list. Despite spending almost £400m (including a world record fee for Paul Pogba) at Manchester United, the Portuguese still claimed he was not properly backed by the board. If Arsenal were to go for Jose as their next appointment then they need to have the chequebook primed like never before.
The frugal times at The Emirates may appear to be over (now the stadium cost has been balanced) but it remains to be seen if The Kroenke’s are ready to splash the cash to the levels that Mourinho would demand and to the level that could see Arsenal back competing with the top teams in Europe.
That said, this is a club that spent £30 million on Granit Xhaka so maybe “Transfer Acumen” isn’t top of their wish list.
The Footballing Style
Since the arrival of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal has always had dreams of being the North London version of Barcelona. Playing tiki-taka in the English rain rather than the Spanish sun.
So far, they have fallen short of the aspiration, but the dream is still there.
Here is why, for me, those fans calling for Mourinho’s appointment is such a surprise. The Arsenal crowd DEMAND free-flowing, fast-moving, attractive football and if there is one thing Jose Mourinho likes LESS than Youth Development its free-flowing, fast-moving, attractive football (apart from maybe a lack of respect, respect, respect).
Why some Gunners think that Jose would change the habit of a decade and install this at the Emirates is beyond reason.
Despite claims to the contrary (mostly from him) Jose Mourinho has always been a manger with an Italian mindset. Cautious and defensive. His supporters describe it as “Organised Play” his detractors as “Parking The Bus”. It is, in itself an art from but it may not be what the Arsenal fans really want.
In his most exciting periods, success was bought not by a change of tactics or by a dynamic attacking playing style but by the quality of the individual players at his disposal and their ability to counter-attack from Mourinho’s solid base. His defensive mindset has had various levels of success: At Chelsea in 2003 it was impressive, at Manchester United in 2016 it was less so.
Without considerable investment in those flair players that can turn Jose’s “Park the Bus” into a free-flowing counter-attack (and we’re talking record breaking sums), Arsenal should expect the reductive, stodgy, slow football we saw at Old Trafford. Often with two holding midfielders deployed even against the most meager of opposition.
On the plus side, the defensive mindset could finally see Arsenal shake off their habit of losing those “big games”, something that Jose has always specialized in.
It may not be pretty but it could be effective.
Jose Mourinho is a controversial figure, that’s just part of his charm. He is a man who could start an argument in an empty room. Especially if that empty room contained pictures of either Arsene Wenger or Ed Woodward.
Would that suit Arsenal?
The Wenger rivalry of the past should influence the board’s decision when they consider if Mourinho is the right man for the job. The club would not be the club it is now were it not for the Frenchman and appointing his biggest rival as his (all be it not immediate) replacement would be a real “va te faire foure” to their most successful ever manager. That said, the past is the past and if Mourinho could restore Arsenal to a trophy-winning team once again that history would soon be forgotten.
What might not be so much of an easy ride would be the harmony within the club.
In recent weeks virtual civil war has broken out because the club captain “cupped his ear” to the crowd. With Jose in charge that would be just the tip of the aggro iceberg.
If Mourinho isn’t happy then you soon know about it. He has shown time and again that he is more than happy to call out those responsible for his misery; be it the fans for unrealistic expectations, the players for underperforming or the board for a lack of support. The only person who never gets blamed by Jose is Jose and that doesn’t always lead to a happy camp.
There will be arguments, there will be a dressing room split and the Arsenal board will take exception to public humiliation from their employee. The questions is how long the “honeymoon” period lasts before the miserable argumentative Mourinho rears his head?
One relationship that could flourish under Jose’s leadership is that with Mesut Ozil. The pair got on famously during their time together at Real Madrid with Ozil producing some of his finest career displays, whilst averaging 0.46 assists a game. If Jose can get a tune from a player who has become more accustomed to action in the treatment room than on the pitch then Arsenal could have a very dangerous addition on their hands.
Appointing Jose Mourinho as Unai Emery’s appointment seems like a crazy plan but like all crazy plans, it might just work.
It comes down to a question of what sacrifices Arsenal are prepared to make to consider themselves a top team in Europe again (or maybe even in England).
You know what you are going to get with Jose Mourinho: Three seasons of madness and trophies:
Season One: All is well in Jose’s world. He is happy to be at the club, has some cash to spend (largely on older, proven Premier League players, whilst the young talent is sent out on loan) and he wins his first piece of silverware (maybe the FA Cup or Europa League).
Season Two: At first it appears that the Moruniho project is working. The club makes progress in the league but ultimately fall short. The cracks are also starting to show as Jose blames the club for not bringing in the right players to secure the title.
Season Three: Chaos. Mourinho falls out with key players (calling half of the team fat), loses the dressing room and is sacked before the end of the season and the next manager is left with an aging squad and major rebuilding job.
So Arsenal gets their much-coveted piece of silver but at what cost? Would winning something (anything) be a decent trade-off for three seasons of turgid football and yet another rebuilding job?
Whilst Emery’s woes continue in North London and his struggles to make an impact continue the shadow of Mourinho won’t go away. For Jose Mourinho, and the sake of his legend, that will be just fine.