Jose Mourinho’s mind games can’t mask Tottenham’s involvement in title race despite ‘unshakeable self-belief’

Miguel Delaney
·3-min read
Jose Mourinho looks on at Stamford Bridge (Getty)
Jose Mourinho looks on at Stamford Bridge (Getty)

It was a claim of outrageous brazenness, although delivered in the most muted manner.

Much like with Tottenham Hotspur’s performance, Jose Mourinho’s words didn’t really match what we were seeing.

His side had just ground their way to a 0-0 but despite an approach that often had 10 men behind the ball, the Portuguese attempted to claim that he and his players were unhappy with that and that Chelsea would be more content with the result.

“This is the kind of game where I told my players that this was an opportunity to go five points ahead of Chelsea, and I’m pretty sure that they [Chelsea] didn’t want that,” Mourinho said. “In the end, it was a game that I believe both teams wanted to win but at the same time both teams don’t want to lose… my players are my witnesses, we came here to win. We were ready to punish them if they take normal risks, the normal dynamics that they had. But [Reece] James, two crosses in 90 minutes, [Ben] Chilwell only defended, [N’Golo] Kante always in front of the two centre-backs. They played very well, tactically and strategically, very well.”

The implication of all this, of course, was that it was Chelsea - and not Spurs - that had changed their approach to something more defensive out of fear of the opposition. The reality was that Frank Lampard’s side just didn’t play into Mourinho’s trap.

READ MORE: Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho and why the transformative power of the manager has never been higher

<p>Mourinho and Lampard battled to a stalemate</p>Getty

Mourinho and Lampard battled to a stalemate


When all this was put to the Chelsea manager afterwards, he was naturally bemused.

"I'm not sure what angle Jose is coming from,” Lampard remarked.

These were of course Lampard’s own little media games, but the angle is all too clear.

It is Mourinho’s usual football gaslighting, expectation management and, well, man management.

It also goes way beyond the relatively simplistic analysis that it is only ever about diverting attention from performance. It’s deeper than that, and goes much further back in Mourinho’s career.

There was another throwback when he described Spurs as a “little pony” in the title race, playing down their chances of winning it. It echoed his comment in 2013-14, when he described Chelsea as “a little horse” - conveniently playing down both their chances and how much he has spent.

READ MORE: How modern football became broken beyond repair

At Manchester United, then, there was the argument that finishing second was his greatest ever achievement.

You can see why Mourinho dispensed with a public relations manager, as he did earlier this season, because no one is better at this than the man himself.

He has an extraordinary ability to make people believe “black is white” and really whip up fanbases - and thereby players - around him. It is a genuine talent, and has been seen at every club he’s been at - at least for a spell.

It’s actually impossible not to wonder what he might be like as a politician. It’d be pretty potent. Mourinho tends to be smarter than most people in any given room, and he knows how to push people’s buttons.

Lampard himself has expressed this.

“All I can say is that he has an intuitive understanding of the way people work, of their dreams and desires, and how to harness that energy and convert it into a winning formula,” the Chelsea manager said in his 2006 autobiography.

“The unshakeable self-belief which is his trademark can have a very powerful effect on those he believes are of a similar mind. He can be intimidating but he also has a charm which is just as disarming.”

That was the thing with these comments, too. They disarmed people, while also diverting the discussion after the game.

It’s all part of the show.

Right now, the truth of that show is unmistakable: no matter what Mourinho says. Tottenham are aiming to win this title - but that won’t always involve trying to win every single game.

Read More

Spurs just a ‘pony’ in Premier League title ‘horse’ race, says Jose

Lampard’s respect for Mourinho leads to damp draw

Mourinho the perfect man to guide Spurs through uncharted territory