Forget Mind Games, Jose Mourinho's Approach Is Working Brilliantly for Chelsea

Guillem Balague@@GuillemBalagueFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 11:  Head Coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid CF smiles during the La Liga match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid CF at Cornella-El Prat Stadium on May 11, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

I don't believe in mind games at all. It is a bit of an obsession in England, but I think everyone is giving it too much importance.

Jose Mourinho, manager of Chelsea, the current leaders of the Premier League, claimed earlier this month that the Blues were not actually title favourites.

"The title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump. Maybe next season we can race," Mourinho said, according to BBC Sport, with Chelsea cast in the unlikely role of "little horse."

More recently, after Chelsea took over top spot, the mind games continued. This time, Arsene Wenger, the manager of second-placed Arsenal and a frequent sparring partner with Mourinho, was the target.

COBHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho speaks to the press during a Chelsea Press Conference at Chelsea Training Ground on February 14, 2014 in Cobham, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

"If he is right and I am afraid of failure it is because I didn't fail many times. Eight years without silverware, that's failure," Mourinho said, per BBC Sport, before calling Wenger "a specialist in failure."

Isn't it funny that in Italy, Germany and Spain, nobody plays mind games? How is that? If it were so effective it should be part of the coaching course and the tactics of any coach.

I think that the tactic can be a good plot to explain defeats and victories, but I just don't believe in it. If you go back to Kevin Keegan and Newcastle losing the Premier League title to Manchester United in 1995-96, you could explain this by saying that the pressure got to him and he couldn't handle it.

But, what I'm saying is that he wasn't a good coach or a good manager. He couldn't deal not only with the pressure but a lot of other things very well, and I think his career proves the point.

People love to play the clip of him losing it on television, but I don't think that had anything to do with anything. What happened afterward, of course, was that the team wasn't solid enough. They didn't control games and just played the brand of football that Kevin Keegan likes—which is: no tactics, just go for it.

And that is what loses you a league, not shouting on the television.

Or take for instance the Rafa Benitez rant. In the next game, against Stoke, Steven Gerrard hit the post—but if the ball goes in, Liverpool might have won the league and Rafa would have been considered a genius. But Gerrard hit the post, and sometimes that's the difference between winning the league and not winning it.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has had some memorable feuds with Jose Mourinho over the years.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has had some memorable feuds with Jose Mourinho over the years.Michael Regan/Getty Images

The rant was not what affected the team. What really affected the team was that Liverpool were punching above their weight, as we've seen in the following years. And look at the bench of Manchester United that season—full of players that cost £20 million-plus. That big bench is what wins you the league, never mind mind games.

I know that Jose Mourinho tried mind games in Italy and Spain. They never worked, but I do have to admit that not only what you would call the mind games but a lot of accusations from the media got Barcelona unsettled.

There was a lot of excessive tension at Barcelona, but that was not mind games. It was a whole club, in Real Madrid, and a whole set of media, in the Madrid media, throwing a lot of rubbish toward Barcelona. I don't call that mind games. I call that not very good fair play, really.

But, still, Barcelona won 14 trophies with Pep Guardiola. So the mind games didn't work at all, did they?

So why is Mourinho's tactic—saying Chelsea are not favourites for the league despite being at the top of the table—working? It's just media stuff. You talk to the players and they don't care.

It's because tactically Mourinho is working the team perfectly. Chelsea, one of the richest clubs in the world, is playing like a small team, defending very deep and counter-attacking. In a league where everybody attacks, that is clever and can take you to the title even if you don't have the best individuals.

Never mind mind games.


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