Mourinho looks to take Chelsea between the lines

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho, or so his supporters regularly claim, is unlike any manager England has ever seen. And so are his tactics. He is no fan of the regulation, Premiership standard of 4-4-2. Indeed he abhors it. He almost spits out his disdain.

Jose Mourinho, or so his supporters regularly claim, is unlike any manager England has ever seen. And so are his tactics. He is no fan of the regulation, Premiership standard of 4-4-2. Indeed he abhors it. He almost spits out his disdain.

"I don't like to play the 4-4-2 in two lines," he said. "I like the match in between lines and players with dynamic creativity to do that. What are you a midfield player or an attacker? Nobody knows." What is becoming clearer is the formation - and the personnel - he has chosen. His squad, pared down somewhat with 11 departures and three others on the way out, is taking shape and it is close to the "21 plus the goalkeepers" he promised. That has been some feat - involving the shipping out of 11 players with Chelsea biting the bullet regarding Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo in particular.

Mourinho's most significant signing is his most expensive - the striker Didier Drogba. Big and powerful he will be able, when required to lead the line on his own and is far more mobile than either Crespo or Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink. And that could be a key as to how Mourinho plays.

Mourinho has always favoured power. His talisman, in Portugal, has been the Brazilian striker Derlei, and Drogba will allow him to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, taking advantage of the wide players at his disposal and giving him the option of using a withdrawn striker. Yesterday, for example, Mourinho was asked whether his first-choice on the left will be Damien Duff or Arjen Robben, "I don't know," he replied. "Maybe both, maybe no-one."

Robben himself was equally circumspect. "I think the future will show us," he said. "The coach has said that the only thing I have to do is prove myself. I can play up front, I can play on the left and I can also play behind the strikers." The most likely scenario is that both he and Duff will play although the Irishman's recuperation from injury may delay his appearance. Mourinho, having seen Deco sign for Barcelona, is also likely to quickly give Joe Cole his chance.

Cole could be his kind of player. Although small he has the ability to "play between the lines" as Mourinho puts it. That means defenders who can step into midfield, midfielders who play behind - or in front of - the midfield and strikers who can drop back.

"The players don't need to run so much," Mourinho said, by way of explaining the need for a smaller squad and players appearing in more matches. "They don't have to spend their energies thinking 'what do I do in this situation' when a team plays automatically, when a team knows what to do in each situation during the match." His new formation is a variation on what he used last year in leading Porto to victory in the European Cup. "A manager should not have his style with every season, every club, different players," he said.

"The 4-4-2 in diamond for me is a very good tactical system because they play in different lines." He will adapt it at Chelsea. Mourinho is a coach with a Plan B. And C. And D. Such tactical variations have not always succeeded amid the hurly-burly of the Premiership, where players are often resistant to change. Mourinho's intention is clear. "Some were not adapted to my football idea," he said of the departures. The tactics come first.

His attention to detail is also fanatical. Mourinho spends hours watching videos and is a computer junkie. He spends hours surfing the internet for information and is already organising a network of scouts to attend the pre-season games of his Premiership rivals. Yesterday he revealed that he knew all about Drogba when the striker played for the little-known French club Guingamp, and tried to sign him two years ago when at Porto. It shows the depth of his research. "I didn't have the money then," he said ruefully. The player would have cost £4m. Now he is Mourinho's for £24m.

"All the positions are covered," he said, although another defender will arrive. "Two players for each position, all young, all great quality." Mourinho now hopes not to make any more changes. "I have a very young squad. We have a very good group, a very good atmosphere."

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