On paper, Chelsea have arguably the strongest and deepest squad in the Premier League and one of the best squads in Europe. The quality in the squad is unmistakable. Yet Jose Mourinho, driven largely by narcissism and the need to be loved, publicly belittled his squad’s worth repeatedly as a psychological ploy. Part of Mourinho’s motivation was to prove to the world that signings made by Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo needed HIM to be great, to be champions.
Chelsea has a favorable second half fixture list. Unlike Arsenal and Manchester City, they play the vast majority of remaining fixtures where points could be dropped at Stamford Bridge. Knowing this, I sense the Blues manager publicly downplayed his side’s quality, and ability to impact the title race. By placing the pressure squarely on Arsenal, Manchester City and other title aspirants, he took pressure off himself while putting his team in place for a good run.
Now Mourinho has positioned himself as the savior for the Blues. Should Chelsea win the title, it was down to his management skill, taking a squad of inferior players and overtaking the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. This way the manager insulates himself from criticism if things go horribly wrong, and can go to Roman Abramovich this summer and ask for money for a squad overhaul.
While Mourinho has positioned himself in the media, he has brilliantly motivated his squad to play more disciplined and organized football. Chelsea has responded with a great run of results during the festive period placing the team in a great position for the second half of the season. What is even more apparent is that certain players in the Chelsea squad have taken the opportunity presented by Mourinho’s criticisms to cement a regular place. New signing Willian has thrived since the Chelsea manager publicly criticized the squad’s quality and discipline. Eden Hazard has also raised his game to a new level. Left behind are the likes of Juan Mata, André Schürrle and Kevin de Bruyne, players who could start for any other Premier League club.
It’s a masterful job of public positioning that would make politicians on both sides of the Atlantic proud. Perhaps both David Cameron and Barack Obama could take notes from The Special One on crisis management and deflecting criticisms away from oneself.
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