Tactical nuances. Man management. Making the right hiring decision. Managing conflicts. These are tedious decisions but none so more challenging than being asked to settle in front of the press after a harrowing defeat. It seems like almost all top-class managers have found an ideal formula that just works well for them. A perfect blend of gibberish and truism sprinkled with some pep talks. They may be separated by teams and results but united in their response.
Master Of Blame Game!
As per a recent survey by The Athletics, ‘bad refereeing’ was the most popular excuse among elite managers, being mentioned 60 times. Jose Mourinho, the self-proclaimed philosopher with mastery in Hegelian Dialectics, was quite fond of pinning bad results on the referee. When Leicester lost to Man Utd in 2017, Mourinho said his team was robbed by the referee, recounting three fouls that should have resulted in a penalty kick.
Mourinho has always been a master provocateur who remained eternally in conflict with the referee. But he is not the only one. Lambasting match referee after defeat is a time-honored tradition for elite managers which serves a dual purpose: it absolves them of their mistakes and deflects the negative attention away from their players.
But some managers do not feel compelled to hide players’ mistakes from the world. Admittedly, blaming a player is not exactly an excuse. It’s a factual response to the defeat in a game where a better team almost always wins. Directing the defeat to individual errors or the whole team comes second in the list. They are mentioned 37 times. Manchester United’s interim manager Ralf Ragnick often pointed out the inefficient squad after defeat.
Injuries accounted for 12.3% of excuses, while COVID-19 was cited 13 times.
Thomas Tuchel Blames The Most, Marco Bielsa Not That Much
Chelsea’s current manager Thomas Tuchel was found to be ranked one in the moaning index. Tuchel’s Chelsea was giving a stiff challenge to both Liverpool and Manchester City in the early part of the season, but then they fell apart and fell behind in the race. Of nineteen occasions when Chelsea failed to secure three points, Tuchel blamed “situation beyond their control” eleven times.
Tuchel’s most infamous press conference of the season came after a defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, when he spoke non-stop about the match referee in a presser. He also raised objections about the referee having a “good time” with Carlo Ancelotti after the final whistle.
Mikel Arteta is second on the list, with a blame percentage of 55.5%. After losing to Burnley, Arteta went overboard and blamed the football scoring system. “Football is not like basketball. In basketball, you shoot 50 times and the opponent does it once and you win every single game. It doesn’t work in football like that,” said Arteta.
Jurgen Klopp was ranked 12th in the list, but it has more to do with Liverpool’s impeccable season, where they lost only nine games.
Marcelo Bielsa was ranked just above his successor Jesse Marsch at Leeds United. But Marsch took charge of Leeds united only in the latter half of the season, thus the sample size is a bit low. Moreover, Bielsa never blamed the referee for underwhelming performances.
Can’t They Stick To Facts?
Minutes after the final whistle, when you’re still processing the result, a bunch of ever-curious media people flashes the microphone and ask you to explain the defeat. You’re being asked to explain something that you yourself don’t know in its entirety at this point. But the world needs an answer. They can’t wait. And as a manager, you have to make sense. In times like these, resorting to cliche or blaming external factors is the easiest option for them.
If you make a compilation of these post-match speeches in the wake of defeat, you’ll be ready with some potential best-seller in the self-help category. In defeat, the talk revolves around the importance of improvement and unwavering faith. In victory, it’s always about carrying forward the momentum.
Lead Image: Chelsea FC