James Lawton: Special One's touch now needed at the Emirates

 

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The Independent Online

Of all the possibilities provoked by Jose Mourinho's latest overture to the Premier League, the most intriguing by some distance would surely be a straight job swap with Arsène Wenger.

Who would lose? Hardly Wenger, who not so long ago had the Real portfolio offered on a platter of the finest Spanish gold.

Consider the advantages implicit in a move to the Bernabeu. He would no longer have to fret over a defence that continues to look as accident-prone as his compatriot Inspector Clouseau. He would get to work with such thoroughbreds as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil and Kaka. For a little while at least he would be free from Doomsday analysis every time he made a substitution.

Mourinho would inherit a new stage at the Emirates guaranteed to give him another bracing challenge or, as he might put it, another juicy role in a movie of his own creation. Arsenal would get a coach guaranteed to bring back a level of competitive integrity which has been dwindling steadily since their last trophy seven years ago. In that time Mourinho has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups, two Serie A titles, the Italian Cup, the Champions League and the Spanish Cup. He is also top of La Liga, seven points ahead of Barcelona –, possibly the best club side in the history of the game.

These are not so much credentials as a series of open pay cheques and it is no wonder that for so long Mourinho was considered the inevitable replacement of Sir Alex Ferguson. That conviction lost a lot of ground last season when Mourinho's behaviour slumped to new levels of boorishness. However, who begins to match his unbroken impact since he guided Porto to the Champions League in 2004?

According to reports from Madrid, the front-runners to replace Mourinho if his relationships with club president, Florentino Perez, and some senior players continue to deteriorate are Germany's coach, Joachim Löw, and Rafa Benitez, who was sacked by Liverpool and then Internazionale. Löw has put in an impressive seven-year stint with Germany but running this particularly well-oiled national team is not quite the same as battling the remnants of the old galactico mentality. Mourinho tackled it head-high and maybe the full repercussions are only now surfacing.

Still, apart from the local difficulty represented by Barcelona whenever they appear at the Bernabeu, Mourinho is already more than halfway to another stunning entry in his record. No one doubts his ability to bring home the title for Real and it is not the biggest reach to imagine that he might also collect his third Champions League. It certainly means when Mourinho flutters his eyes at the Premier League once again it is less a job application than an invitation to form a queue.

No leading club can be comfortably impervious to the opportunity of sure-fire success that Mourinho offers and this certainly has to include Chelsea. The embattled Andre Villas-Boas talks passionately about the future he hopes to build and we are told that Roman Abramovich listens patiently. But then was any football investor ever more anxious than Abramovich to live not in the future but today?

This is the supreme promise of Mourinho. He doesn't put down building blocks. He lives on the run, agitating everyone around him, but invariably creating a sense that anything can be achieved, if not today then no later than tomorrow. In recent years this has made him the antithesis of Wenger, whose critics say that while he spins a future he neglects the present. What no one can question is the fact that Arsenal need impetus. On Sunday they retrieved potentially the ugliest situation since dissatisfaction first began to be expressed at the Emirates. But it was hardly a performance to beguile anyone into the idea that redemption was at hand.

The defence was again appalling as Aston Villa, who disappeared at half-time, took a two-goal lead with something close to contempt. You couldn't help imagining the wrath that such inadequacy would have provoked in Mourinho. The challenge of his career came when he ordered Internazionale to "park the bus" against Barça two years ago. Yes, he admitted, he would play anti-football against the darlings of the game. He would demand to see how good they were. For some the outcome was close to sacrilege but Mourinho could not have cared less.

An ideal fit for the Arsenal fashioned by Arsène Wenger? No, but then such a candidate simply does not exist. Mourinho wouldn't – and couldn't – make a new Arsenal in the image of the old one. But he would get them back into the game, he would make them serious again. And, no doubt, he would win something. In an imperfect world, it would surely be a start.

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