Now is not the right moment (Liverpool 4, Arsenal 0)

Week 3 and already it feels like week 33 for many Arsenal fans.

Wenger agrees with the interviewer that it was a “terrible result and performance” – although clarifies that the “result is a consequence of our performance.”

“It was not good enough….we were beaten everywhere physically…..our performance on the day was disastrous.”

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In stressing the performance, Wenger is attempting to isolate the discussion on a particular set of circumstances under his and his players control.

Wenger also stops any attempt to widen the discussion to broader issues at Arsenal by asking for distance.

“It is important not to become too emotional after the game. The disappointment is big enough. We have to take a bit of distance from that. There are reasons behind it we have to analyse.”

This analysis in Wenger’s mind will start with the fact that “we have lost two games and we need to keep our belief and our focus.”

“If I am the problem, I am the problem and I am sorry – but we want the fans to be with us.”

Leadership communication lesson

Wenger’s performance in this interview is of a far higher order than that of his team on the pitch. A leader must maintain control and focus on the facts and Wenger does this consistently and with great discipline. He will use emotion in communication with this players, but it will be a deliberate choice and not for public consumption in the structured format of a post-match interview.

 

 

 

 

 

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Guardiola – One of the proudest days of my life (Man City 1, Everton 1)

Guardiola’s post-match interview added to the fun of a lively match that was either spoilt or made by the referee depending on your taste.

For Guardiola, “We played a good performance. We created chances. Important to create chances – OK we didn’t finish, but important to create chances.”

Pressed to describe the mistakes of his own team in contributing to the goal, Guardiola only recognises Everton before turning it back to praise his own players.

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“They [Everton] made a good action. We have done everything. I don’t know how many chances we create. We play with 10 men, similar to Burnley for 70 minutes – then we were able to win, today we draw.”

Does he want to discuss the refereeing decisions?

“Next question”

Asked about his tactical change, he deflects any praise onto the players. “Tactics depend on the players. We put more players in the middle to gain more control – we create enough chances.”

He ends, as he started, by praising his players.

“We are here for the results, but at the end we have to analyse the performance. It’s one of the proudest days of my life – 10 against 11 for 65-70 minutes against a top quality team is not easy.”

Leadership communication lesson

Creating an environment of trust and respect is often critical for any leader.  The team’s perception of the willingness of the leader to defend their performance in public can often dramatically influence this environment. In not criticising any player, Guardiola can build that sense of trust within his group. As Guardiola points out – we are here for the results – but the best way to achieve those results is with a team who trusts their leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conte the hired help (Chelsea 2, Burnley 3)

Week 1 and to Conte for the surprise result of the weekend.

The first sending-off is the “key moment of the game – to play the rest of the game with 10 men, and then 9 men, is not easy.”

The obvious next step would be to criticise the referee, but Conte is seldom obvious.

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“I do not want to comment on the referee.”

Instead he reframes an argument, by redefining it – what the Ancient Greeks would call Syncrisis.

“But in the last 3 official games we finish with 10 or 9 men, I think I need to adapt a new system to play with 10 or 9 men to anticipate this situation.”

The joke may be weak, but the frame around this new argument is interesting.

By joining the seasons together, he can apply pressure to Chelsea’s next referee. A sending-off in the next game becomes a bigger decision than it would otherwise be.

Referees are not the only audience a manager can communicate with after the match.

With the transfer window still open,  managers at this time of year can use their post-match interview to influence the transfer decisions still to be made.

Conte, however, turns down the opportunity to criticise the recruitment decisions,

“I think at this moment the focus is to continue to work very hard with these players, for the transfer market the club is trying to do its best. I am not worried, I am ready to fight with these players.”

“It is important for us to concentrate on our work and to be focused every day during the training session and do our work in the best way. No hiding places, no excuses.”

The words are fine, but the tone is surprisingly downbeat. This does not come across as the aggressive, confident Conte from last season and this is reflected in his choice of clothes.

In place of the sharp suits of last season, we have a shapeless, formless tracksuit.

It is a troubling start to the season.

One match in and Conte is communicating a separation between himself in the owners in tone and dress.

Conte may feel that – with a title-winning season behind him – a separation will hurt Chelsea more than it hurts himself.

Leadership communication lesson

Understanding the importance of tone and even dress, is a lesson many leaders need to learn. Words are important, but we communicate through emotion and visually. Consistency must be the aim for any leader. How you say it and how you are seen to say it, must align with your aim. For more formal communication opportunities – a speech for example – you need to both practice and seek feedback on these specific areas. Get this wrong and your speech will fail.