Jose Mourinho has taken aim at critics who have used statistics to denounce his style of play. He claimed highlighting certain possession-based numbers to draw conclusions is “like an incredible piece of meat or fish but badly cooked.”
The Tottenham boss has faced questions over his conservative approach throughout his career but particularly at Spurs which contrasts with his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino’s more expansive tactics, yet Mourinho has steered the team to second place in the Premier League.
Mourinho told Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp “the best team lost” as Spurs were beaten 2-1 by the defending champions at Anfield on Wednesday night, despite the Reds enjoying 76% possession with a clash of styles.
However, Mourinho said: “You love the word ‘possession’ and you love the stats. You [the media] in general. It is a little bit like the efficiency of players and sometimes you say ‘the stats say player B had 92% of efficiency on his passing.’
“But the stats don’t say that that player only made passes of two metres… they don’t say that that player was a centre-back that only passed to the other centre-back or a number six who only passed the ball to number eight, and the guy who had 65% efficiency on his passes is the guy that made the assists… the guy that makes the tight passes, the guy that makes 60 metres passes to change the direction of the play.
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“So the stats, many, many times are like an incredible piece of meat or fish but badly cooked. It doesn’t tell me much. What tells me is the number of goals that you score and the number of chances that you create.
“So you can have less time with the ball but score more goals than the opponent, create more chances, create better chances but for some reason, not to score the goals in relation to this. This is for me the fundamental thing. In relation to the way we play, sometimes it is our own decision, sometimes it is our game plan.
“Other times it is the opponent that creates that situation. So for example, against Crystal Palace [in a 1-1 draw last Sunday], in the first 20-25 minutes of the second half, not at all that we tried to play that way. In fact, we did exact the opposite, that was the gameplan that we tried in that period.
“Sometimes the game goes in a direction where the responsibility is the opponents. These are situations where I am always supportive of my players when the opponent in some moment is just better than you and forces you to play in a way like you don’t want to do it.”
Mourinho took another swipe at Klopp after he was named the top men’s coach at the Best FIFA awards after winning last season’s Premier League title, beating Bayern Munich‘s Hansi Fliuck and Leeds’s Marcelo Bielsa.
“I think the only chance for Flick to win is that Bayern find two or three more new competitions for him to win it,” Mourinho said.
“So maybe if he wins seven titles in one season, maybe he wins the award. I believe he only won Champions League, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, European Super Cup, German Super Cup, he only won five and the biggest one of all. I think ‘poor Flick’, the only chance is for Bayern to find two or three more trophies to see if he can win it.”
Mourinho insisted he was no longer in the game seeking personal validation, having mellowed after arriving at Chelsea from Porto in 2004 and declaring himself the “special” one.
“I’m not working in the search of any recognition,” he said. “OK, 15 years ago when I arrived and I was probably a bit too arrogant for what you were used to, maybe yes, maybe I was. But I’m not. I work for my club, for my players. I try to give happiness to the people who love my club, the club where I work. I am very ambitious.
“That didn’t change at all. I think you can still read on my face that to lose hurt me the same, nothing changed. But that situation of looking for some recognition, that’s not for me, that’s not for me. I don’t care.”