'Empty Talk' Of Rodgers And Mourinho Shows Liverpool and Chelsea Have Lost Their Way


For all the pantomime of a modern press conference, and the manner in which clubs attempt to use them to enforce their own highly sanitised messages, there are times when they can reveal more truth than even the results on the pitch.

Take the two managers rightfully under the most pressure right now, Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers. Their recent comments - as well as the tone and body language with which those comments were delivered - have been all the more conspicuous because they are normally so confident and vocal.

The Portuguese in particular tends to have a cutting response for absolutely everything if he feels it is required. His responses to questions about Chelsea’s dismal recent form, however, have been as lacking in edge as his team. He's actually sounded wholly unconvincing, devoid of the usual assurance.

After the 3-1 defeat to Everton, he again attempted to peddle the view that the scoreline did not match the performance.

“The way they are playing is not as bad as the results but, in every single game, things are going against us.”

Mourinho has said something like that after every match so far, despite every match so far featuring atrociously slack defending, meek individual application, and a breakdown in collective cohesion.

Chelsea are abnormally open at the back, and unable to put much together going forward. Worse than anything, they seem unable to offer the usual Mourinho fundamental of forceful resilience. His sides are not just getting beaten. In many games, they’re getting ripped apart. Crystal Palace and Everton followed Swansea City in sensing a vulnerability. They went for it and were rewarded. Everyone knows Chelsea are there for the taking, which is something you can never really say about Mourinho teams.

These are big problems, but the Portuguese is still saying that it just looks like that because of little issues. This is the kind of guff David Moyes used to come out with when everything at Manchester United was falling apart and, just like with Mourinho at the moment, the way the Scot delivered that guff raised the suspicion that he didn’t necessarily believe it himself.

Rodgers actually mentioned his own 2014 3-0 win over Moyes’ United after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford. It seemed like a calculated attempt to pointedly remind everyone that’s how good his football can be, but instead only reminded of Moyes’ flat and unconvincing appeals that it isn’t actually that bad.

It is that bad. Liverpool have seemingly lost everything that made Rodgers’s 2013-14 title challengers so good, most of all their intensity. They’re woefully meek.

This is the thing with Rodgers too. For all the mockery of how he talks about the game, and how punctuated by jargon it often is, he usually believes what he says.

There was genuine conviction to his philosophising from 2012 through to 2014, as well as spells of last season. What’s more, everything he said about “intensity”, “application”, “hunger” and - that buzz-word - “character” actually matched what was happening on the pitch.

In those first two seasons, it wasn’t empty talk.

That was not the case on Saturday.

At one point, he just robotically relayed out the line about the second half: “we showed good character to get back on the front foot”.

This again just sounded like a crutch, something to fall back on because he genuinely had nothing to say about the defeat. Or, at least, nothing he wanted to say in public.

Like with Mourinho, it was as if he was saying things by rote to just end the press conference as quickly as possible, because he really didn’t want to be asked about it.

And, given their usual comfort with the media - even in controversial circumstances - that is perhaps the greatest concern of all.

It fosters the feeling that they don’t really know how to explain what is happening right now, and thereby don’t know how to begin fixing it.

They need the right action, as much as the right words.

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