José Mourinho’s five years away from Premier League soccer left many fans pining for the Special One’s return, with the Portuguese boss’s penchant for press conference theatrics giving his teams a level of entertainment off the field he’s unable to match on. But that entertainment is often derived from an abrasive and disrespectful way of addressing his fellow coaches, a derision that surfaced last week when he called Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger a “specialist in failure.”
“I am embarrassed for him. Honestly. I didn’t speak about him at all in my press conference and I have no more to say. Let’s focus on things that are worth it, on football. I am more disappointed for Chelsea than for me. I don’t want to get into those silly disrespectful remarks.”
To a certain extent, Wenger’s was a predictable response, but he also was able to make his feelings know without escalating. Like Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini — another recent target of Mourinho’s gibes — Wenger’s gave a minimal response and elected to move on. Given the media savvy of their adversary, neither Pellegrini nor Wenger want to be draw into a battle they can’t win.
That doesn’t mean Mourinho’s right. On the contrary, with each unprovoked swipe at respected managers like Pellegrini and Wenger, his media tactics look more cynical – the product of a playbook written to exploit the English media, regardless of whether his comments ring true. Guaranteed to get his words into the headlines of every major English outlet, Mourinho can create a scrutiny free zone around his team and players, drawing attention to himself before deflecting it onto another team.
Even when that doesn’t work, we’re left debating the nature of his tactics. Chelsea’s subpar performances against West Brom and Manchester City get a pass from all but the most ardent fans – people so ensconced in the Blues’ day-to-day that they tune out Mourinho’s nonsense.
I’ve asked before: When are we going to have enough of José Mourinho? It seems a hypocritical question considering my byline’s attached to yet another reaction piece. Once the culture around the Premier League has had enough, however, I’ll happily go back to talking about the games. As long as we want to talk about Mourinho, we’ll continue to be complicit in the Chelsea boss’s game.
It’s too bad, too. There’s enough drama in the Premier League to spend all day talking about the title race – one of the best in the league’s short history. Instead, we’re allowing Mourinho to persist with this ridiculous sideshow.
It’s only been six months, but Mourinho’s already managed to cast himself at the center of the Premier League universe. England’s welcomed this back with open arms.