Jose Mourinho has a surprisingly awful record at penalties - this is how he can get better
Jose Mourinho loves his marginal gains. He makes sure to tell a certain player, usually a striker, to mark the opposition goalkeeper if he ever comes up for a corner. He knows which opponent is most likely to make a mistake under pressure.
He often leaves the team-talk to other players (recently, it was Nemanja Matic given the honour) and members of his backroom staff, including masseur Billy McCulloch (who addressed the team before last season’s victory over Manchester City).
His players rave about his ability, in pre-match briefings, to predict how games will flow, and he made notes of every training session he took in his first spell at Chelsea. He is obsessed over details of the game, which is why it is so surprising that he has such a terrible record at penalty shoot-outs.
The Portuguese has been involved in six shoot-outs in his career, winning only one of them. That’s almost as bad as the England national team’s record of one win in seven – and if Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg tie against PSG goes the distance, home fans could be left fearing the worst.
Here are those games in full:
Chelsea vs Charlton Athletic – LOST 5-4
October 26 2005, League Cup third round
Charlton were second in the Premier League when this game was played and Chelsea were top of the table. The game finished 1-1 after extra-time and Chelsea kicked first, John Terry scoring. Robert Huth was second for Chelsea and he missed. Jay Bothroyd converted to put Charlton ahead and while Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba all scored, so did Charlton’s shooters – Matt Holland, Hermann Hreidarrson and Bryan Hughes. Chelsea had been unbeaten for 15 months at home under Mourinho – he would say the record was still intact – but no-one expected a German player to miss from the spot.
Chelsea vs Liverpool – LOST 1-4
May 1 2007, Champions League semi-final
Daniel Agger scored the only goal of the game to make it 1-1 on aggregate and take it to spot-kicks. Bolo Zenden scored first and Arjen Robben was up first for Chelsea. “Against Liverpool, we had everything organised: ‘This guy is the first, this guy is the second, this guy is the third’; boom-boom-boom,” Mourinho told The Independent last summer. “One that was not on the list was [Arjen] Robben and Robben comes to me and tells me, ‘I’m not on the list. I take No 1, 100 per cent it is a goal.’ Okay, I let him go No 1. Miss!” After Xabi Alonso, Lampard and Steven Gerrard scored, Geremi stepped up. “The best penalty-taker all season in training, never missed a penalty, amazing, was Geremi,” said Mourinho. “So 10 minutes before the end of the game I put on Geremi for the penalties. Geremi goes there – miss.” One thing in Mourinho’s story does not add up: he says everything was organised and yet he must have changed it all to accommodate Robben. Mourinho, the master who knows his players better than they know themselves, bowed to a player’s self-assessment at a critical moment. That was his mistake.
Chelsea vs Manchester United – LOST 0-3
August 5 2007, Community Shield
Another 1-1, in the first game at the newly-opened Wembley, this was Mourinho’s penalty nadir. There’s a great photo taken from the halfway line during this shoot-out between Premier League champions Manchester United and FA Cup winners Chelsea. The picture shows Chelsea’s first kicker, Claudio Pizarro, standing over the ball on the spot, with number 14 on his back, facing an empty goal. United’s goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was trying out a new tactic: walking incredibly slowly to his position, and keeping Pizarro waiting. The goalkeeper had learned that any kind of break in routine for the taker could be disruptive. He was right. Van der Sar saved Pizarro’s kick, and then kept Frank Lampard waiting for Chelsea’s second, by speaking to the referee about the penalty spot, seemingly just to waste time. Lampard’s shot was saved too. Van der Sar went on to save Shaun Wright-Philips’s penalty. Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney sealed a rare 3-0 score-line in the shoot-out.
Inter Milan vs Roma – WON 6-5
August 24 2008, Supercoppa Italia final
Mourinho thought that Mario Balotelli had won the game against Coppa Italia winners Roma with an 83rd minute goal to put Inter 2-1 up. But Mirko Vucinic equalised on 90 minutes and it went to penalties. Roma went first and scored their first four. For Inter, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be facing Mourinho in PSG colours, scored, as did Balotelli. Dejan Stankovic, third up, missed and it was left to Francesco Totti to kick fifth for Roma to win it. He hit the crossbar and it went to sudden death. David Pizarro and Luis Jimenez scored; then Juan missed and Inter skipper Javier Zanetti scored. It was Mourinho’s first, and to date only, shoot-out victory.
Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich – LOST 1-3
April 25 2012, Champions League semi-final
Real Madrid won the tie 2-1, leaving it 3-3 on aggregate against Bayern Munich. In the match, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben had scored from the spot, and it was a surprise that Robben was not one of Bayern’s five nominated kickers. Instead, David Alaba got them off to a flier and Ronaldo then failed from 12 yards. Mario Gomez then scored and Kaka, a second-haf sub for Angel Di Maria, missed. Bayern were 2-0 up but almost faltered when Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm failed. Xabi Alonso scored and when Sergio Ramos fired high and wide, it was left to Bastian Schweinsteiger to score the fifth and final kick – something he was unable to do in the final against Chelsea, when Petr Cech saved his effort.
Mourinho was convinced that Real Madrid would have beaten Chelsea in the final in Munich: “With Real Madrid I didn’t win the Champions League because Ronaldo, Kaka, Sergio Ramos – they miss the penalty,” he said. “It was not somebody that didn’t want to take the penalty, it was not somebody that was shaking because, ‘I don’t want to go and I never took a penalty in my life and the boss told me to go.’ No, it was the three best penalty-takers, they come to me and they say, ‘I want to be the first,’ ‘I want to be the second,’ ‘I want to be the third.’ ‘OK, go’. They all miss! That’s why I didn’t win the Champions League with Real Madrid.” Once again, Mourinho was listening to his players rather than taking responsibility himself; and even if part of that responsibility is to take their opinions on board, he is absolving himself from blame by suggesting it was all their idea in the first place.
Chelsea vs Bayern Munich – LOST 4-5
August 30 2013, European Super Cup
This was Mourinho’s first match back as Chelsea coach and came against a Bayern side coached by his nemesis from Spain, Pep Guardiola. It was almost a carbon copy of the 2012 Champions League final: a thrilling 2-2 draw in which Bayern had the momentum from scoring an injury-time equaliser through Javi Martinez. Four days earlier, seven Bayern players practised penalties in training, and each scored six out of six. That’s 42 converted penalties in a row.
Before the shoot-out, Guardiola told his new players that he had never taken a penalty in his life and so to listen to the advice of his assistant, Manel Estiarte, who was an expert penalty-taker in his water-polo career. “He is the world expert on penalties,” said Guardiola. He added one other piece of advice, as recounted in Marti Perarnau’s marvellous ‘Pep Confidential’: the players had to decide, there and then, where they were going to strike the penalty, and not change their minds. “And from now until you shoot, keep telling yourself, ‘It’s going in.’ With every you take, say it, ‘goal, goal, goal…’”
Mourinho can be clearly seen asking centre-forward Romelu Lukaku if he wanted to take one. “Are you sure?” he says. Lukaku nods. Bayern kick first and all five players score: Cech gets a hand to Xherdan Shaqiri’s effort, the fifth one, but can’t stop it. For Chelsea, the first four score, including Ashley Cole off the inside of the post.
Then up steps Lukaku. He looks nervous. Left-footed, he has a slow run-up and waits a beat before shooting for Manuel Neuer to commit himself. Neuer stays still, and Lukaku strikes the ball, weakly, to Neuer’s left. The keeper gathers it easily, and Chelsea lose. Lukaku never kicked a ball for Chelsea again – he was loaned to Everton one week later. But did he have any other option apart from nodding when Mourinho posed him the question? And why was he picked fifth, one of the most important numbers in the order, especially when the pressure increases if you have to score to avoid defeat (when the chances of scoring decrease from 74 per cent to nearer 62 per cent)?
Mourinho claims he has tried everything and still doesn't know the answer: “I have lost so many times and I did everything: the team practised, the team did not practise; I analysed opponents for years – the percentage of where they take the penalties, percentage of where the goalkeeper goes or not goes; and I don’t do this, I do it by instinct. We did everything we could do. Nothing you can do, man, nothing.”
I would (respectfully, of course) disagree and suggest that instead of asking his own players if and when they felt like taking a spot-kick, that he manage them and tell them that they would be taking one, and when they would be taking it.
And he should tell them before the game kicks off, so they don't get a nasty surprise when they are not expecting it. And tell players 6-11 that if one of the first five is subbed off or not available to take one, then they will be in the top five. Sir Dave Brailsford calls it, “analysing the demands of the event.” Have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C. And don’t blame the players when all that goes awry. With players like Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Didier Drogba in their squad, what could possibly go wrong?
Ben Lyttleton - @benlyt
Ben Lyttleton is the author of Twelve Yards: The Art & Psychology of the Perfect Penalty