Nothing special about Mourinho invective when it comes to Arsenal visionary Wenger
The Chelsea boss is incapable of taking responsibility for failure, which is never his fault
A couple of weeks ago, Jose Mourinho had a little moan about Manchester City. Why, he wanted to know, did everybody love City and hate Chelsea, when they were both essentially the same?
The parallels between City and Chelsea are obvious. Both are medium-sized clubs that suddenly became big ones thanks to billions of foreign petrodollars. Both quickly assembled large squads of star players and won the title. Yet City, according to Mourinho, are still regarded benignly while his Chelsea side had to battle to their titles under the constant lash of public criticism.
Mourinho usually has all the answers but this mystery left him stumped. “I don’t know why. In my time we were accused of buying the title, no? Because our owner was Mr Abramovich, just arrived in the country. Maybe now people see City in a different way. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s taken them six years to get to this stage while we won straightaway. And I don’t care . . . Teams with success, people tend not to like them, no?”
Last Friday, Mourinho answered his own question. There is a simple reason why City are not yet as unpopular as Chelsea, and that is that they have never been managed by Mourinho.
His bizarre attack on Arsene Wenger – “a specialist in failure” – was a jolting reminder of the wildness that underlies Mourinho’s theatrical charisma.
Asked about Mourinho’s comments on Sunday evening, Wenger chose to remain above the fray. “I do not want to go into silly, disrespectful remarks,” he said. “I did not speak about him in my press conference and I won’t do so again tonight.”
Everybody knows that there are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticise Wenger.
For instance, it was curious to hear him say, on Friday: “The definition of stupidity is that they make always the same mistakes”, since that’s precisely what his critics would accuse him of over the last few seasons.
He’s always too cautious in the transfer market, he always buys the same type of players, he doesn’t address persistent, obvious defensive weaknesses.
As a winner of trophies, Wenger is only the second-most-successful manager in the Premier League, trailing well behind Mourinho. The Portuguese man has won two Champions Leagues, while Wenger has the distinction of being the only manager to lose in the final of all three European cup competitions.
But Wenger is also the visionary coach who created the team of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Vieira, and the club-builder who presided over Arsenal’s metamorphosis from regional power to European superclub.
Wenger could argue, if he was inclined, that he probably would have won more trophies if he’d hired himself out to oligarch teams around Europe. Would his legacy have been the better for it?
Arsenal’s years of consolidation have brought frequent moments of pain and humiliation for Wenger. He’s watched generations of teams fall short, he’s seen his best players leave, he’s sometimes had the whole crowd booing his decisions. And yet a critical mass of the crowd continue to believe in him. The terminal crisis has never arrived.
When Mourinho said he could never be eight years at the same club without winning anything, he framed it almost as a boast. He was telling the truth. Mourinho is incapable of taking responsibility for failure.
When he loses it’s never just because he’s come up against a better team. It’s because the system has somehow been rigged against him, and he’d rather take the whole thing down in flames than accept that somebody else was better. He’s one of those kids who takes the ball and goes home.
Victory and failure
As far as Mourinho is concerned, there is only victory and failure. There is no place in this curiously empty world view for a concept like respect. Either you beat him, or you’re a joke like all the other clowns he’s thrashed over the years.
Even when Mourinho is trying to seem respectful, as on the many occasions when he sucked up to Alex Ferguson, he ends up sounding disingenuous. His inability to accord anyone any respect is the reason he became so unpopular in Italy and Spain. In England people still tend to laugh at his jokes, but the logic of his behaviour is such that even the English will soon be laughing harder at his defeats.
At one point during Saturday’s defeat at Manchester City, Mourinho launched a tirade at referee Phil Dowd, who, oddly, seemed to get drawn into a shouted conversation with the Chelsea manager.
Mourinho was clearly pleased to have got through to Dowd and puffed himself up on the touchline, but on this occasion his effort to apply pressure didn’t work. A couple of minutes later, Dowd let City score an offside goal for 2-0. Manipulation of officials is a black art rather than an exact science.
The same goes for attempted intimidation of rivals. If Mourinho was hoping to heap pressure on Arsenal, there was no sign of it yesterday as they beat Liverpool with a weakened team. Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini have decided that the best way to deal with Mourinho is to ignore him.
The Chelsea manager is like a man trying to start a fight in an empty room. It’s already pretty undignified.
If, after all this, Chelsea fail to win the league title, Roman Abramovich may begin to remember why he got tired of Mourinho the first time around.