Who can I blame? (Man Utd 1, B’Mouth 1)

The most disappointing result for the top 6 at the weekend was at Old Trafford.

Mourinho only needs to remember Van Gaal’s sacking on the day of winning the FA cup to know the relative balance of priorities between cup competitions and the league.

The failure at home to beat a Bournemouth side reduced to ten men raises questions about an assumed narrative that has Man Utd returning to the top 4.

In his post-match interview Mourinho chooses to focus attention on the first-half.

“We played a phenomenal first half and we should be winning 3 or 4 nil and we end the first half at 1-1.”.

“It is as simple as that. Who can I blame? Ourselves. Nobody else.”


And yet it is not as simple as that.

Instead,  we have the use of apoplanesis as the subject is quickly changed from “ourselves” to  “a team that gave up to play”.

We have auxesis in his use of inflated language, in addition to “giving up”, their goalkeeper was “phenomenal”.

And we have a logos that it is very difficult to score when you have 1o men who do not want to win.

He has changed the narrative from the problems at his own club to a critique of Bournemouth, while covering his tracks by claiming he is “not critical” of Bournemouth’s approach.

Mourinho may not be in the top 4, but in his use of rhetoric, there are few managers who can touch him.

Leadership communication lesson

Communication is a skill to be learned and to be developed. Mourinho will have likely learned through observation and repetition, rather than studying the underlying rhetorical skills, but learning these skills is an invaluable shortcut for anyone who finds themselves in a leadership role. Look at Obama, look at Mourinho and even look at Donald Trump. It is the command of language that, time and time again, separates leaders from followers.







It is not enough (Leicester 3, Liverpool 1)

A chastening night for Liverpool and for Klopp.

The best contribution from a Liverpool player was Carragher’s joke that the only thing the players practiced during their trip to La Manga was their drinking.

For Klopp, “It is not enough, for sure it is not enough, it is not even close to being enough”.

This emphasis builds nicely to the simplicity of his answer to the problem, “so we have to work”.


His criticism of the team is based on the gap between this performance and past performances.

A nice technique that has the effect of supporting his confidence and that of his team’s, while still allowing for a critique.

“It is hard to see what we usually do, and then to see this performance” and “We can play much better football and we have shown it already”.

Klopp then focuses on the future.

“We have a week to prepare and we have to show a reaction.” “You have to analyse, you have to show the boys and you have to react to it”.

“We all play for our future – we don’t want to make it too serious, but that is how it is”.

Leadership communication lesson

Controlling the tense of an interview is the best way to control its direction. When you are uncomfortable about something in the past, switching to the future tense is a good idea. It allows you to acknowledge the problem, but to focus on the solutions you have in place. By placing yourself at the heart of these solutions, this technique also gives you the opportunity to reinforce your authority.






So so so happy (B’Mouth 0, Man City 2)

Was it for nights like these that Sheik Mansour funnelled the oil wealth of Abu Dhabi into Man City?

To shock and awe the 11,464 capacity crowd in the smallest ever Premier League stadium?

Probably not, just as you probably don’t employ Guardiola in order to “have a good battle to qualify for the Champions League”.


Having replaced Joe Hart with the false number one that was Claudio Bravo, Aguero is perceived to be next in the firing line.

Invited to underline how important Aguero is to the team, Guardiola instead stressed “when you play in big competitions, champions league, you need all the players”.

Does Guardiola think City can win the title?

No. “The gap is too, too, big”.

The focus for City in on their own game, “Game by game to  improve our performance”.

Tonight Guardiola felt this happened and was “so so so happy with the performance”.

Leadership communication lesson

Past success buys you time and credibility as a leader. Fighting for a Champions League spot was not the expectation for City. Guardiola is drawing on credibility established elsewhere to reset these expectations. If City were to now challenge Chelsea this may be perceived to be a success. As  a leader you can reset expectations if results are poor and it can be useful tactic in managing your stakeholders, it is not however a card you want to play more than once.

It is unbelievable (Swansea 2, Leicester 0)

The third part act of the greatest story ever told is almost upon us.

An astonishing escape from relegation, a miraculous championship, and a remarkable relegation?

Leicester were well beaten by Swansea and Raniera struggled to maintain a consistent line after the match.

Luck was his dominant theme. “It is unbelievable – their first two shots on goal and we concede two goals”. After this it is “very difficult to come back”.


Ranieri then goes with the interviewers attempt to widen the discussion and picks out the two problems facing his team; “we concede goals and we don’t score”.

Don’t worry though, “we will stick together to find a solution”.

The battle is difficult though when “you lose the first ball, the second ball, they were more determined than us”.

These are damning criticisms of a team asked to restart its season in this match. Winning the ball has nothing to do with luck.

For Raniera, however, “they need a little luck to move our confidence”. It will just take “one moment”.

Swansea – and the other relegation candidates – will be pleased that moment still seems some way off.

Leadership communication lesson

Any team wants clear communication. If your arguments contradict each other, you will put yourself in a difficult position. If luck is the problem, you want your team to maintain confidence in the quality of its work. If the quality of its work is the problem, you want your team to solve the problem immediately. Talking about luck provides an excuse for inaction that could prove fatal.






When you lose 2 games (Arsenal 2, Hull 0)

From the frothing frenzy of Arsenal Fan TV to the calm and eloquence of  a Wenger post-match interview.

A game in which Arsenal were “resilient and focused”. They “played a little bit nervous” although it was “not easy playing against a good side.”

The opening goal was a handball? “Maybe, I didn’t see it.”

Instead, Wenger uses the interview to frame the supposed crisis surrounding the club and his position as manager.


The cause of the crisis?

“When you lose 2 games at this club there is an edgy atmosphere.”

“You fight for confidence when you have lost 2 games.”

“It is so dangerous when you lose 2 games on the trot.”

It’s a wonderful example of Syncrisis. The reframing of an argument by redefining it.

The argument is not about Wenger, the “specialist in failure” to use Mourinho’s spiteful jibe,  and the 13 years since Arsenal last won the title.

Not about an argument that has led every back page and every sports show since Hazard turned Koscielny and Coquelin inside out.

And not about an argument enflamed by Ian Wright sharing his own assessment of an assumed private conversation with Wenger in which he sensed he might have had enough. Apparently he had been hurt by the lack of support, said Ian Wright, one his iconic players, who went on to explain why he felt Wenger should leave at the end of the season….

No, the argument is about the loss of 2 games.

Some-one tell Arsenal Fan TV.

Leadership communication lesson

Syncrisis is Greek for ‘alternative judgement’. Wenger speaks many languages, but Greek is not one of them. Wenger understands however that we are surrounded by argument. As a leader you must use this to your advantage. Always choose your strongest arguments and minimise your weakest arguments. Get this wrong and you will not be a leader for very long.







It wasn’t easy (Chelsea 3, Arsenal 1)

“We want you to stay, we want you to sta-aa-aayyy, Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay.”

Sang the Chelsea fans.

For Conte; a position of great strength. A humbling of a rival and the opportunity to reinforce any messages of his choosing.

His choice was to emphasise the qualities of his own team through praise of the opposition.

Arsenal are a “very good team, for me they are a good team, a lot of good players, technically and physically.”

This frame allows him to then praise his own players, “I am pleased for the players.”

He is pleased because they “deserved” the win and they deserved the win “as during the week and in every training session I see their desire and attitude.”

Given his own central role in training, he is not only attempting to manipulate the behaviours he wants to see from his players, but also reinforcing the security of his own position.


Success also allows him to focus on the negatives of the game.

He is led by a question, but close to half of the interview is then focused on his disappointment at conceding a goal. “It is a pity” and it demonstrates the need to “keep your concentration from the start to the end”.

The tone is in fact so critical that the interviewer feels he needs to remind and congratulate him on the win!

Leadership communication lesson

Success gives you a position of strength that should never be wasted. It can be wasted if you do not link success to the behaviours you have asked of your team or the strategy you have chosen to follow. Do not be coy, subtle or vague. Link success directly and it will help you build followership within your organisation.

This makes no sense (Liverpool 2 – Swansea 3)

Ahh… how to dispel the rancid smell of a home defeat to the worst team in the Premier League?

Well, we’ll start with the tried and trusted refusal to answer the question.

Interviewer: “Jurgen, can we go back to the start of the second half and Swansea take the game away, how did that happen?”

Klopp: “Can we go back to the second half? I don’t know, in the first half…..”.

Complete with shoulder shrugging and eyeball rolling, Klopp is now free to tell his own story of the first half.


A story of “4-5 moments like it should be”, a game that was “as we expected” and one in which “we knew we had to stay patient”. There were “3,4,5 chances to score a goal” and all that was lacking was “the final punch.”

Having re-established his – and his team’s competence – we can now analyse the goals; or not as the case may be.

“The first goal  I only saw it in the game…I have no idea how this happens ….the second goal…..these things happen.”

Clearer is Klopp’s pleasure at his own team’s goals.

It’s emphasised through his use of Anaphora, repeating his words at the beginning of successive clauses; “We deserved the first goal, we deserved the second goal.”

The ending – given the score line – is however one of confusion; “3rd goal, I have no explanation for how this happens, at the end one man is free in our box and this makes no sense.”


Leadership communication lesson

A leader will receive difficult questions in public. Klopp’s repetition of part of the question buys him some thinking time,  lulls the audience into an expectation that he will answer the question and his use of “I don’t know” is far less confrontational than a “no” would have been. Repeating parts of a question is a simple technique any leader can learn from.