I think it’s ironic how in the last seven days, which have seen points dropped in the league at West Bromwich and our second FA Cup elimination in the space of a year to Manchester City, as we begin to see faint elements of truth to Mourinho’s stupid ‘little horse’ metaphor, we’ve also seen the clearest demonstration yet of how the Portuguese doesn’t mean a word he says.
His referral to Arsene Wenger as a ‘specialist in failure’, in his Saturday press conference, very quickly became the most famous sound bite of the season so far. I read the quote before I saw a repeat of the press conference and my first thought was that this was the usual calculated affront dressed up as sinister invective by tabloid headline writers. So I was surprised later on when this view had become consensus, when having eventually watched the interview, it was clear this wasn’t a calculated slight at all. Jose was just angry. I think the regard in which he is held as such a thoughtful tactician makes it easy to forget just what an emotional person he can be.
One the one hand, I was disappointed that such an anodyne remark from the Arsenal coach had managed to elicit the level of puerility from Mourinho which it did. However, the insinuations of nastiness in the Portuguese’s words, present in the vast majority of reports from the conference were misguided, I thought. Surely, when asked to respond to a comment in which you’re deemed ‘fearful of failure’ by a far less successful competitor than yourself, a reaction along the lines of ‘well he’s one to talk’, wouldn’t be completely unreasonable?
Personally I found all of the faux-outrage immeasurably more pathetic than the comments themselves. Wenger’s response that he felt ‘embarrassed’ for Mourinho might have held more weight too, had there not been the level of truth present in the aforementioned puerility as there was. There’s no level of context that can be provided which I can see, to counter Jose’s belief that eight full seasons at club with the prestige and resources of Arsenal without a single trophy, can only be deemed as failure.
Then on the other hand completely, the mere fact Mourinho was willing to bear so much emotion is suggestive to me that he feels he has something to gain (i.e. trophies) in suppressing the calm and paternal persona he arrived back in England adorning, and embracing the more natural, confrontational side of his character – which after all, is the side which raised him to his current standing in the sport.
On some level, I’ve always found the most interesting thing about Mourinho to be, not the man himself, but how people react to him. Naturally after his comments last week, out came the same old lines of denigration about him being an arrogant, egotistic, megalomaniacal, eye-gouging prick. When considering the more thoughtful criticisms however, I can’t help but feel there are some more deep rooted causes of disdain for the Portuguese than just his occasional vulgarity.
My best guess is that there are lot of people in the world who like the sport of football, but what makes them truly love the game (and particularly the English game) is the soap opera narratives and the friction they add to proceedings – and I think on some level, fancying themselves as purist observers, they’re bitter about it. (This is a description I think applies to a lot of journalists also). It’s a most unwelcome truth, but sometimes they have no choice but to focus their writing on the personalities and plot lines in the game, because sometimes the sport itself is just too inelegant or dull to be discussed. Mourinho forces fans and hacks alike to confront this when they realise the majority is less interested in the finer details of a certain game than they are in what Jose’s been saying lately – and they resent him for it.
Personally I’ve never seen why you can’t enjoy both, and do so without condoning some of the stupid things he has said and done down the years. My opinion remains the same as it always has on this matter – the Premier League is richer for having Mourinho and so are Chelsea, especially when he’s in this more emotional frame of mind.