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Dublin: 3°C Sunday 17 January 2021

Will Jose Mourinho's conservatism impede Matt Doherty? Graeme Souness doesn't think so

The Sky Sports pundit also believes Liverpool are favourites to win this year’s Premier League.

Matt Doherty (file pic).
Matt Doherty (file pic).
Image: Nick Potts

GRAEME SOUNESS HAS backed Ireland international Matt Doherty to thrive following his pre-season move to Spurs.

The Dubliner joined Tottenham from Wolves in a £15 million deal last month, and is set to become the first Irish international to play regularly under Jose Mourinho since Damien Duff.

The 28-year-old consistently impressed as a wing-back in Nuno Espírito Santo’s 3-5-2 formation at Wolves. However, the fact that Doherty is likely to play in a four-man backline with Spurs for a coach perceived as more conservative has led to some speculation that he could be less effective in this system.

Yet Souness does not see it as an issue and believes the idea of Mourinho as a defence-minded coach is exaggerated. 

“I’ve worked with Jose, it’s very simplistic to point the finger at him and say he’s a negative coach,” he said. “I think in the bigger games, he’ll have a more pragmatic approach. But he tries to get on the front foot and go for it.

“I think Doherty will enjoy playing for him. He’s a workaholic, Doherty, and I like him very much. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, the other one they signed, they’ll be better in there, the midfield next season.

“So I wouldn’t worry if I was Doherty, I think he can play the same game. He’s bought him because he’s likes him and because he sees him as box to box, gets there, delivers, chips in with a goal. There’s a lot to like about Doherty in the modern game in that system.”

Meanwhile, the Sky Sports pundit believes Liverpool are favourites to claim this year’s title, but does not see them winning as many games as last season, while suggesting both Manchester clubs will improve.

However, Souness is slightly concerned with his former club’s decision not to invest in any major new signings over the summer.

“The best time to buy players is when you’re at the top, because those players don’t have to be an immediate success,” he explained. “The pressure is not all on them to be the difference to really being a top team. 

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“Man United, in the last five years, have had to be players that needed to be an instant hit and the expectation level is enormous on them, and they’ve not lived up to it, the vast majority, and it’s impacted on what they’ve achieved.

“I’m a wee bit disappointed Liverpool haven’t done that this time. If you look at Man United, in the two decades they were dominant, Fergie did that — buying when you’re strong.

“Liverpool, in the last four years, have been by far the best at recruitment. Recruitment is the biggest part to get right at a football club.

“I think Jurgen [Klopp] feels he’s got good young players coming through that are going to fill the areas he needs support in.

“He’s got the best back five out there, if you factor in the goalkeeper. In midfield, they could do with freshening up in there. And certainly, a back-up for the front three. Someone to push them along. There’s nothing like competition for places to get that extra yard out of players.”

The 67-year-old pundit also recounted an experience from his playing days to highlight how the Reds sides of his era consistently won trophies — a habit the current Liverpool team will be hoping to emulate.

“It comes from the senior players and the attitude that’s created by the coaches and the manager.

We’d win the league and in the first or second week of pre-season, Ronnie Moran would come into the dressing room in Melwood with a cardboard box that had been delivered into Anfield. He’d wait for us all to come out of the shower. He’d be sitting in the dressing room. He’d put the cardboard box on the table and he’d say: ‘There are some medals in there for those of you who’ve played enough games and you think you deserve one, nothing more. There’s no presentation.’ He’d come out. And everyone would go: ‘One… Two… Three… Four.’ He’d come back in and go: ‘And by the way, you get f*** all this year, for what’s in that f***ing box.’ And that was a little reminder, we start now. We get nothing from last year. And that was done on a regular basis at Liverpool.

“Three years ago, I took my son to Ronnie Moran’s funeral. Coming back down from Liverpool, I said: ‘Thinking about it, he was the single biggest influence on my career.’ There was no magical words at the training ground. It was just constantly berating you, bordering on falling out with you, pushing you to believe: ‘Yeah, you’re a good team and a good player, but we’ve had better than you here in the past.’ It was always making you strive and a big part of that came from Ronnie Moran and an equally big part came from the senior players, who drove on the new guys and the ones who were drifting.”

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