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Can Matt Doherty Really Thrive In A Jose Mourinho Team?

By Gary Connaughton
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It came out of the blue, but Matt Doherty's prospective move to Spurs looks to be on the brink of completion.

Few predicted that the Irishman would leave Wolves this summer. He has been a key player at Molineux since their promotion to the Premier League, establishing himself as one of the best attacking fullbacks in the divison.

Considering the level of ambition that Wolves hold as a club, it was not expected that he would move on.

Spurs have certainly nabbed themselves a bargain when you consider the £16million fee that has been reported. They have struggled to fill the right back spot since Kyle Walker left for Manchester City in 2017.

In Doherty, they will get a right back whose Premier League goals and assists tallies can only be matched by Trent Alexander-Arnold over the last two seasons. At 28-years old, he is very much in the midst of his prime.

The deal makes sense on a number of levels for Spurs, but what about for the player himself?

In a financial sense, it is likely that the Dubliner will receive a sizeable salary increase. He will also move to a club that has played in the Champions League for four consecutive seasons. If this move came two years ago, it would be seen as a huge step for Doherty.


As things currently stand, things are not so certain.

During the most recent campaign, the club failed to qualify for the Champions League since the 2014/15 season. The man who established them as a top four club, Mauricio Pochettino, has been shuffled out the door. Some key members of that team, with Jan Vertonghen the most recent example, have also left.

As a result, it's clear that they are not in the same place that they were a couple of seasons ago.


Under Jose Mourinho, they have struggled to establish an identity. That is understandable when the Portuguese manager only came in midway through the last campaign.

However, Spurs did play some dire football at times. Many of their supporters have already grown weary of Mourinho's methods. As has become typical during his recent managerial stints, Spurs have played a slow moving, unexciting brand of defensively focused football.


That hardly sounds like a system in which Matt Doherty would thrive.


At Wolves, he is used in a position that perfectly displays his best qualities. He is given the freedoms to get forward at will, bombing up and down the pitch safe in the knowledge that there is defensive cover behind him.

Doherty also frequently arrives at the back post to meet cross from the left flank. Would he be afforded such liberties as a more traditional right back under Jose Mourinho? Perhaps even more importantly in his new manager's eyes, will he be trusted to keep the ball out of the net at the other end?

To be fair, Mourinho has experimented with a three man defence at times this season. He used it in a number of big games earlier in the campaign, although he did abandon it when the season returned after a three-month hiatus and used a 4-2-3-1 formation.


Perhaps the signing of Doherty has been sanctioned with the idea of recruiting player who would allow him to play with that system more often? Time will tell.

A look at Jose Mourinho's recent track record with his fullbacks doesn't exactly offer much encouragement.

Serge Aurier registered one goal and four assist in 25 league games under him last season, but Ben Davies failed to score or assist a single goal. Jan Vertonghen managed a goal and an assist in his six appearances at left back.


At Manchester United, Luke Shaw's development stagnated to a frightening level (even accounting for his injury), while Antonio Valencia managed four goals and four assists in two full seasons under Mourinho. The likes of Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, and Daley Blind hardly enjoyed the best spells either.

It often seemed like his fullbacks were the first to be blamed for any of the team's failings.

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In short, Mourinho hasn't really gotten the most out of his fullbacks in an attacking sense in the last few seasons.

Spurs and Wolves are likely to be operating in the same section of the Premier League next season. Both will have Champions League aspirations, however, a Europa League spot seems far more likely.

There is no doubt that Spurs are a bigger club than Wolves, but that doesn't mean they are what is best for Matt Doherty. The player himself obviously feels that he can excel in London and he certainly has the talent to do so.

If he is to thrive, Jose Mourinho will have to offer him the freedoms that have allowed him to get to this point in his career. Everyone in this country is hoping that the Irishman will not end up as yet another recent Mourinho transfer failure.

SEE ALSO: The Exciting Ireland Team We Want To See Start Against Bulgaria

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