For someone who's supposedly so good at understanding and playing the media game, Jose Mourinho's recent comments are a bit baffling. Not all of them. Maybe 10% of them. But when all that anyone talks about is the 10%, it hardly matters what the remaining 90% are.
Take the post-match rant after the Southampton loss. He opened with a blast at the referee, openly inviting a fine from The FA -- literally: "if The FA want to punish me, they can punish me ... it's not a problem" -- while ensuring that all that anyone (i.e. the media) talked about after the match was Mourinho blaming another loss on the referee. But if we actually look beyond those bits, that 7-minute post-match stream of consciousness contained a thorough and detailed examination of Chelsea's issues. Mourinho wasn't ranting or raving or being a madman on the edge of reason; he was measured and calm and analytical. But no one cared, because he chose to lead with an attack at the referee.
Now, after The FA duly followed through with a fine and a (suspended) stadium ban -- which, chances are, will turn into a real stadium ban sooner rather than later -- Mourinho once again obfuscates the real issues by coming out to attack The FA's decision. First off, I thought it was "not a problem" ... but now it is? It's the decision that he himself invited. He challenged The FA to fine him; what other possible outcome did he ever expect?
"Every word I say is a big risk for me. The only thing I can say is that I am happy I don't have an electronic tag. I think it's not far from, but I am happy I don't have an electronic tag."
"I also think £50,000 in the world where we live today, I think is an absolute disgrace. I also think the possibility of getting a stadium ban is also something absolutely astonishing."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
Sure, let's say he was counting on this outcome to expose the double standards and inconsistencies that we all know by now are standard operating procedures at The FA. There are plenty of valid of criticisms and complaints to be made against football's governing body in England, but by shouting loudest at the start, by burying the lede under an attack, Mourinho has once again ensured that his real message, the real meat of the problem has gotten lost. It's not that he's wrong -- the fine is ridiculous and inconsistent when compared with what other managers have gotten away with -- but had he not bothered to label it with such strong, headline-making words, the rest of the message may have actually gotten heard. As it stands, all that anyone (i.e. the media, again) cares about is just how crazypants Mourinho is once again. For someone supposedly so good at this game, so good at supposedly controlling the narrative, Mourinho's once again dropped the ball.
"But more difficult for me to understand is when I compare different people with different behaviours, or with similar behaviours, with different words or similar words. I know that I am not English, I know my English is just good enough to work in this country but not perfect. But the difference between 'afraid' and 'weak and naive', the difference is £10,000 and a one-match stadium ban."
"There is something now we know. One - we can push people in the technical area. We can. No problem. Anything in the technical area, we can push, no problem."
"The word 'afraid' is a punishment and a hard punishment. But to say the referee was 'weak and naive', and referring to one of the top referees, not just in this country but also in Europe, to call him 'weak and naive', we can do. I think the only good thing of this last decision by the FA is that every manager in this country can write in a little book and when he goes to the press conference he knows that 'afraid' costs £50,000, 'weak and naive' you can do."
"It's more important for football in this country, a word, than aggression. So now we know. It's the only two good things I take from this, because it's good for everyone, and it's the fact I still can walk in London without any electronic tag."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
What we should be hearing is 'The FA lets Wenger get away with comments'. If Mourinho actually wants to try to lead some sort of righteous crusade against The FA's inconsistent decisions, to try to make them a bit more accountable for their decision-making and their punitive processes, that's the message that we should be hearing. Instead, what we are hearing is 'Mourinho once again rages against The FA' or 'Mourinho calls FA fine a disgrace' or 'Mourinho feuds with The FA, Wenger'. The media twisted last year's original "campaign" comments to deflect away from themselves and make it about referees and The FA. They took Jose's words and made them suit their own needs; so much so, that even Mourinho himself started operating under that narrative. Now they're doing something similar to make sure anything reasonable the Chelsea manager says stays buried under a pile of shouty nonsense. And Mourinho's feeding right into that by giving them the material necessary.
I'm not sure this strategy is working, Jose.