“Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” – Vince Lombardi
You’ll find few good losers in football. It’s not often that a side gets beaten and the manager has nothing to complain about. More often than not, the complaints focus on variables which are uncontrollable on the part of said manager.
But in being a bad loser, you don’t have to be ungracious. Unless you’re Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese is the master of the ‘blame game’. It’s rare you’ll hear him refer to the qualities of the opposition upon defeat, and it’s even rarer that these defeats pass without some sort of defining influence from the officiating party. Well, certainly in his eyes anyway.
The manner in which he approached his post-match media obligations after Chelsea’a 2-1 loss to Premier League strugglers Sunderland was as ignominious as it gets. The Chelsea boss took a matter of seconds to congratulate his, and Sunderland’s players, before going on to ‘congratulate’ referee Mike Dean and head referee Mike Riley. The only way his sarcasm could have been more obvious would have been if he literally had his tongue in his cheek.
Instead, he dodged the real issues that decided the match, preferring to weave a narrative of conspiracy and incompetence, on the part of officials as opposed to his players. So we took the chance to focus on four points, as Jose did, which truly deserved post-match recollection:
Vito Mannone – The Italian keeper’s error in the dying minutes of Sunderland’s game against Manchester City could have dented his confidence so much so that he found it difficult to regain composure and form. But the gaffe seemed to do nothing other than spur him on to a fantastic performance. Mannone made 14 saves at Stamford Bridge on Saturday: the joint-most by any goalkeeper in a Premier League match since 2003-04. Chelsea’s goalscoring troubles have been well-documented in recent months, but inspired goalkeeping performances are something they cannot account for. In Mourinho’s praise/veiled criticism of Sunderland – referring to the ‘way’ in which they won – he made no reference to the performance of a goalkeeper whom very few Premier League observers had down as a star performer earlier on this season. Sunderland took a chance on him, and this performance may well be the catalyst to top-flight survival.
Ramires – When the going gets tough at Chelsea, there is often someone who cracks. But in Ramires’ case, he doesn’t need to be up against it to act outrageously stupid. Mourinho’s short soundbites in the aftermath of the game – allowing for no questions – were typical of his ‘deflecting’ tactics. He was likely keen to avoid the questions surrounding the incident where Ramires looked to strike Sebastian Larsson across the face (which he will have no doubt seen on a touchline monitor). The Brazilian midfielder has been given his marching orders three times in the past 12 months, and he should face further punishment from the FA for his actions. It would be far more creditable for Mourinho to come out and condemn Ramires’ petulance, as opposed to saying what he did. The Brazilian’s temperament should be a cause for concern, but Mourinho seems to do little to cut it out of his game.
Rui Faria – Ahhhhh! HERE is the Chelsea man who cracked in the face of adversity. Another incident which Mourinho’s indignant response allowed him to dodge was the reaction of Rui Faria on the touchline. His Portuguese colleague lost the plot after Fabio Borini converted his penalty, causing him to be sent to the stands. In typical Chelsea fashion, he couldn’t go quietly; causing a ruckus that even the Special One had to step in to diffuse. Faria’s anger looked to be on the verge of violence, and there is no telling how the situation could have escalated had the Chelsea staff not stepped in. It would have been interesting to hear Jose trying to defend the indefensible.
Chelsea’s poor finishing – In all fairness, this is a topic Mourinho hasn’t shied away from in recent months. It pains him to have a side that is so inefficient in the final-third. Samuel Eto’o – his striker for the day – scored but otherwise contributed very little. When he turned to Demba Ba and Fernando Torres later on in the game, their efforts were fruitless too. When a team musters a total of 31 shots, yet only succeeds in scoring once, refereeing decisions should be the least of his worries. Mourinho’s inability to prepare his team to score consistently enough to be the lesser sides in the division is the real problem. With 21 chances created from open play, and just a goal to show for it, the Special One needs to focus more of his efforts on his team, and the training field, not on referees and other officials.