Did something happen in football this weekend? Apart from the announcement of a Super League – with questions and answers – we also had a lot of action on the pitch. Man City’s quadruple quest was put down in Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, while Tottenham followed the Super League news and sacked Jose Mourinho. There was also a trophy for Barcelona when Lionel Messi led the ‘crisis’ club to the Copa del Rey.
It’s Monday and Gab Marcotti is reacting to the greatest moments in the world of football from last weekend’s international matches in Europe.
Jump to: Messi’s Copa Magic | Why Spurs Fired Mourinho | Man City’s destroyed quadruple quest | Bavaria, flick drama
Messi shines as Barcelona find their way to the Copa del Rey
There is a fairly familiar situation when Barcelona are in what is known as “tiki-taka” mode, increasing ball possession dominance north of 60 percent per game. When they score a goal, the knee-jerk response is to praise. But if they don’t, they’re fools for “trying to get it to the back of the web” and “not trying”.
Barcelona’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao appeared to be heading for the latter in a goalless first half before returning to the former after the break when Ronald Koeman’s side scored a 4-0 win. Indeed, ownership represents two sides of the same coin.
Against a Bilbao team that sat very deep and overloaded the space, Barca decided to keep the ball, move it, examine it, test it and ultimately – mentally and physically – exhaust the opponent. That’s what this style of play is about. They scored four goals after the break and could have scored seven or eight goals had it not been for some brilliant saves from Unai Simon. Much of it had to do with the damage the opposition caused in the first half, psychologically, if not in terms of goals.
Oh, and then there was Lionel Messi. He packed two, his first was something beautiful. It came from one of those vintage runs where he and a teammate (this time Frenkie De Jong) scored a one-two with uncanny precision, sped into space and buried it. His second was courtesy of his old partner in grandeur, Jordi Alba.
The results elsewhere mean Koeman now has a game in hand and a five-point deficit in the La Liga title race, but beyond that he has a side that, while far from perfect, clicks and with confidence bursts. Even Antoine Griezmann, who took on the center-forward alongside Messi, a role he allegedly couldn’t play, looked good at the opening of the standings while De Jong reminded us why he remains one of the best all-rounders in the game.
Mourinho never felt like a natural at Tottenham … especially without fans
Julien Laurens believes Jose Mourinho is no longer a good choice for top clubs after his time at Spurs.
They know it must be pretty bad when you split up with a manager a week before your first cup final in six years and a shot at European football (maybe even a place in the Champions League) is still pending. Because of this, it’s hard to accept that Jose Mourinho is no longer Tottenham Hotspur manager simply because of the results – especially when that team was still at the top of the Premier League in mid-December.
Was it just as it might have happened at Chelsea when they replaced Frank Lampard with Thomas Tuchel, that they were convinced Mourinho wasn’t going to finish in the top four and you might as well move on now?
– Tottenham Brand Manager Jose Mourinho
Possibly, but that would mean they have their replacement like Chelsea did with Tuchel. It would have to be someone out of work, and since we didn’t hear a beep, they should have moved quickly and quietly. Given that the bookmakers’ favorites to replace Mourinho (Julian Nagelsmann from RB Leipzig, Brendan Rodgers from Leicester City) are both employed, this scenario seems unlikely.
Rather, you get the feeling that the situation was simply no longer acceptable on a personal level. It’s not just that the team seemed to have declined in terms of both results and performance. In this way, Mourinho’s own behavior seemed to deteriorate as the season progressed. All that excitement he showed in his welcome video when he joined the club – he talked about how the training ground was “the best in the world” – and in his first few months when they ended the 2019-20 season at a height was replaced by the gaunt look of a man trying to work down a coal mine.
It is also true that there may have been breakdowns in personal relationships with certain members of the cadre. There is a well-known pattern when a manager is fired, especially at a top club, where stories suddenly pop up to justify his departure. You can be true; They can be exaggerated or selfish. It came after Mourinho was previously sacked by Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid. Expect it to happen here too.
Julien Laurens believes the entire Tottenham locker room turned on Jose Mourinho, which led to his sacking.
Mourinho never felt quite sane for Spurs. Where it has been successful in the past it is usually related to the effective management of big players with big players and big personalities. (Also high salaries.) Often he did this by creating a siege mentality and sometimes clashing with the club, but always – when he was successful – with the support of the fans.
Still, Tottenham didn’t have the great personalities of the vocal stars. (Not that they don’t have great players; it’s more that people like Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son just have different personalities than, say, John Terry.) They also didn’t have the huge sums to back them up like some of them his previous clubs. And as for the conflict with club management, few have adopted Daniel Levy and lived to tell the story so this would never happen.
As for the fans? Well, it’s hard to build a rapport page with no one in the seats behind you. Perhaps this also had an impact, especially in the new stadium.
And so you wonder what happens next. Mourinho has burned bridges in every club he’s been to except Porto and Inter. Portugal makes sense on paper after Fernando Santos, and he’s shown an interest in the past. There is also a very talented generation of players to work with. (On the other hand, there is also an aging Cristiano Ronaldo, and the two have often not seen each other at eye level in the past.)
Wherever he goes next – and yes, I said that when he was sacked by Chelsea and Manchester United for the second time – a lot depends on what lessons he has learned from his recent experience. You often learn more from defeats than from victories. It’s probably his best chance to get back into the spotlight.
Quadruple won’t be televised … at least not this year
Shaka Hislop is confused about Zack Steffen’s positioning on Chelsea’s winning goal against Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola hated hearing about a quadruple in 2021, largely knowing that knockout competitions take very little to knock you off. No doubt you feel for him. Saturday’s FA Cup 1-0 semi-final defeat to Chelsea means he may have to settle for a treble (possibly), a double (likely), or just his third Premier League title in four years.
It wasn’t a particularly fun game. Chelsea defended strongly as Tuchel is used to these days and the difference was a run by Timo Werner and a distance by Hakim Ziyech. Kudos to Chelsea; We know that this is how they can get results. The fact that they have only achieved little except in the transition does not play a major role, as they are not judged according to City standards (at least not yet).
– Ogden: Guardiola was right about the fourfold impossibility
It was noteworthy, however, that Guardiola made eight changes as of midweek. Sure, the list of games is overloaded, he has another game on Wednesday (Aston Villa in the league), followed by the Carabao Cup final on the weekend and the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Paris St. Germain after that. That said, eight changes are a lot, and unless you blindly (and frankly, unfairly) believe in your team’s ability to maintain chemistry and quality even when your XI is a revolving door, it speaks for more than the standard rotation. After all, this was an FA Cup semi-final and in contrast to League Cups, Premier League titles, Champions League, League and Bundesliga crowns, DFB Cups and Copas del Rey, he only has one of them at home.
I suspect that the various changes had more to do with the shape of City in the last few weeks and maybe meant to be a bit of a shock for his crew. In the last three games they needed a winner in stoppage time against Borussia Dortmund, they lost to Leeds United and they scored a goal against Dortmund Weg in the second leg of the quarter-finals of the Champions League. They didn’t play badly, but the execution wasn’t there. It wasn’t really there against Chelsea either.
However, there is nothing to worry about. Finally, you can point out that from now on only three games are significant: the league cup final and the two semi-finals against PSG. (And of course the Champions League final if they make it.) So if Pep learns something from the City game, he’ll have more strength. Otherwise, the only result is that there is no quadruple.
Bayern show character towards Wolfsburg … and a bit angry towards Flick
Jan Aage Fjortoft praises FC Bayern Munich’s ability to score goals without their front runner Robert Lewandowski.
Bayern Munich’s 3-2 win over Wolfsburg was somewhat overshadowed by what happened after the game when coach Hansi Flick walked out of the embassy and said he would like to leave at the end of the season. That really shouldn’t have been, because the win against third-placed Wolfsburg – which came just a few days after leaving the Champions League against PSG – was a big deal. After the goalless draw in Leipzig on Friday, the Bundesliga was able to be reduced to seven points. She confirmed the crew’s consistent rebound ability (yes, that’s a word) and reminded us of what a gem they have in Jamal Musiala. It wasn’t just the two goals he scored, but also the way he took responsibility in Bayern midfield and the intelligence with which he followed up. It’s easy to forget that he only turned 18 two months ago.
But back to Flick, who publicly confirmed his intention to move on. (The smart money is that he takes the job in Germany after euros.) Bayern made the terse statements, saying they had agreed with their manager that they would discuss his departure after the game with Mainz on April 24 would address. and that “FC Bayern disapproved of Hansi Flick’s unilateral communications and agreed to continue talks after the game in Mainz.”
Not entirely warm and fuzzy compared to the guy who helped deliver the highs last year, right?
The simplest reading is that Bayern reject an attempt by Flick to get him to get rid of his contract in June. Fine. But the reality is that no club will keep a manager against their will – not if they don’t pay them to sit around and do nothing. Nor is it that Flick is looking for a big payoff: if he were, he wouldn’t be going to the job in Germany. So why treat him like a little kid who is out of line?