It was solid, it was good (Man City 4, Tottenham 1)

Have we reached peak Guardiola?

The opening question is one no Premier League manager has ever been asked.

“Congratulations on your 16th win in a row, how would you describe the performance?”

“It was solid, it was good.”

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He focuses on the strengths of Tottenham.

“A team so demanding to be intense without the ball, because they play so good. Dele Ali, Eriksson, Dembele, Winks – they have good quality.”

“I am satisfied we beat one of the best teams in the Premier League.”

Given the opportunity to talk about the character of his team, Guardiola focuses on their work rate.

“Without the ball we are a so, so humble team.”

“You see the performance of Kevin De Bruyne. You cannot imagine how good he is with the ball, but you see how he runs.”

“If one of the best players runs like a player in the Conference then it is easier for the manager and the club.”

After 16 wins in a row, everything is easier for the manager and the club.

Leadership communication lesson

Any effective leader  knows  it is the behaviours of their team that determines their relative success. In their communications it should always be clear what the audience is being asked to do. By using Kevin De Bruyne as an example, Guardiola is clear on the behaviour he expects from all his players and it is a behaviour accessible to all his players. De Bruyne’s appreciation of space and movement may be inimitable, but any player can copy his work rate out of possession.

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I’m sorry for Michael Oliver (Man Utd 1, Man City 2)

You cannot win the title before Christmas, but it appears others are happy to concede defeat before Christmas.

Mourinho is the only manager not to and ‘happy’ is not a word to associate with him.

Invited to answer where the match was lost, his answer is,

“Clear penalty.”

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“I’m sorry for us, I’m sorry for Michael Oliver – I think he had a good game, but clear penalty.”

“Last season we had a similar situation with Mark Clattenburg against Man City.”

“I’m sorry for Michael Oliver. The referee is a human being – he tries his best.”

“They (Man City) scored two very bad goals – unbelievable to concede. What they are good at, they were not good at –  rebounds.”

How would he analyse his own team’s performance?

“We did good things, we did bad things.”

A Match of the Day pundit could not have put it better.

Leadership communication lesson

Few leaders will have the charisma or platform to be able to completely ignore a question as Mourinho does at the start of this interview. The ability though to use a question to deliver the messages you want your audience to focus on can be the difference between a good communicator and a great communicator. Mourinho’s refereeing argument may only be appreciated by the most one-eyed of Man Utd fans, but it suits his immediate purpose in re-directing attention from the limitations of his own side.

 

Whatever is best for the football club (Sot’n 4, Eve 1)

Everton continued to plumb new depths of despair away to Southampton at the weekend.

How they can be the only Premier League club to have taken points from Man City is one of the great mysteries of the 17/18 season.

David Unsworth’s continued presence as manager is less of a mystery, explainable through a panicked sacking and shambolic recruitment process.

His post-match interview is as confused as his team’s performance.

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In being led by the first question, he starts with a defence of the team, highlighting the positives and excuses.

“We came back into the game – it was a fantastic srike by Gylfie.”

“We missed Niasse – in my opinion he should be on the field. Injuries are absolutely killing us at the moment.”

Then it is as if he suddenly remembers the score and its implication.

” I can’t stand here and defend the players. It was completely unacceptable. Everton fans are rightly furious and so am I.”

“I’ll take my responsibility, but players have to come with the football club also – if they don’t, I’ll get players who do.”

One can only imagine the new players will need to be found within the club as it is difficult to see Unsworth  being given responsibility for a transfer budget.

Leadership communication lesson

Consistently reading and reflecting the mood of an audience is fundamental to the success of any leader. In Unsworth’s situation the mood is one of anger and with such a powerful emotion he had to start his interview in this place. If your mood misses its mark at the start, it is very hard to play catch up, so invest as much time as you can in understanding your audience before any significant communications.

 

 

 

731 minutes (Crystal Palace 2, Chelsea 1)

A goal via two defenders is still a goal and for Palace it contributed to a victory against last season’s champions.

Conte opens his interview answering a question on the  impact of injuries and the international break and whether this was the cause of defeat.

” I don’t know for sure – to play without three important players is not simple, the game was not simple.”

” We need to try to understand this situation, to work to put it right despite these issues. ”

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He declines to share what we he said at half-time to the players.

“I prefer always to keep private what I tell in the first-half and in the second-half.”

Instead he throws the conversation forward.

“Now we have to prepare for the next game in the Champions League and try to do our best.”

And he refuses to answer a question on the gap developing at the top of the Premier League.

“At the end of the season we will see what happens.”

Instead he draws on the rhetorical technique of Epizeuxis to stress what he needs his team to do next.

“In these circumstances we must work, work, work, work, work, work to try to do our best.”

Leadership communication lesson

A loss as much as a victory is an opportunity for a leader to reinforce the behaviours he expects and demands from his team. Conte may not make the specifics visible in his post-match interview, but you can be in no doubt as to the approach he wants from his players. Repetition is a powerful and underused communication tool for many leaders. An audience will always remember much less than you imagine, so repeat and repeat again the messages you want to land.

 

 

 

Every day is tough (Everton 0, Burnley 1)

Nowhere is the current gap between expectation and results greater in the Premier League than at Everton.

A net spend in excess of £50 million to be 2 points from the relegation zone.

For Koeman, “We started well. We played aggressive. Over the total game we were the better team.”.

“The first shot on target is a goal for Burnley and if you analyse Burnley you know it is then very difficult.”.

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Did the confidence drain from his players subsequently?

“Always there is a reaction. This is normal in the situation, there is an impact on the players, the team and the fans.”.

“I can’t complain about the attitude and commitment of my players. We will go on, we will continue, what I saw today is how we need to be to come out of this difficult situation.”

Were his selection decisions correct?

“In life you don’t get a second opportunity – I am not unhappy with what I saw from the team.”

It is confident and polished interview and one that suggests Koeman believes he still has time to turn the situation around.

Leadership communication lesson

Most leaders will never have to defend their team from criticism as publicly as in football, but the decisions leaders take on this issue can define their success or otherwise. A sense of loyalty is built one grain of sand at a time and can be washed away in an instant. This does not mean a leader will never criticise a team publicly. Control and judgement must however be the watchwords before public criticism is aired.

We played so good (Watford 0, Man City 6)

Fifteen goals, in three games, with none conceded, means City are having a moment.

Against Watford Guardiola believes, “We played so good, we played so good.”

He amplifies the result by placing it in a frame of his choosing.

“Last season Arsenal, Manchester United were beaten here, Liverpool did not win here and it is hard, especially after being away in the Champions League three days before.”

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The result is a consequence of the performance.

“We build up, a lot of players close to the ball, we are able to make short passes, we have a lot of energy with our full backs to be able to go up and down, the players who come from the bench give us something new, so it is good.”

“We make a good performance. That is the most important thing, because when you make a good performance, after that you always win.”

Questioned as to whether the staff and players were now a more relaxed team, Guardiola brings it back to basics.

“Winning games gives you more confidence so the staff are happier.”

“The reason we are here is to win games.”

Leadership communication lesson

Success is an opportunity to build the belief of your team in the work they are doing and the decisions you have taken. Within any team there will be individuals who doubt and are critical of the leader. Framing your success in an argument of your choosing – as Guardiola does here in stressing the strategic elements of the performance – is a powerful tool for a leader to push these voices to the margin.

 

 

 

You have to take it (Man City 5, Liverpool 0)

In a post-match interview understandably dominated by the interpretation of the red card, Klopp still effectively communicates a number of messages.

He draws attention to the chances Liverpool created and describes the failure to take  these chances as “my biggest problem today”.

“We had all we needed to score some goals.”

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Klopp’s analysis of the red card adds little to the existing debate. “It was unfortunate…it was an accident…in my opinion it was not a red card.”

More interesting are the additional reasons he gives for the subsequent performance. Believing that, “then you felt the intensity of the international week” and “we have young boys on the pitch, so there was not a lot of right decisions.”.

5-0 may be a an unpleasant score line, but Klopp contributes a memorable line as to how it should be remembered through his use of Chiasmus.

” Better one five-nil, than five one-nils”

He ends the interview by looking forward.

“It was a very bad one. That is life. You take what you get and make the best of it. That is what we will do.”

Leadership communication lesson

A significant set back will always mean there is more focus on what you say and what you do. An effective leader will recognise this as an opportunity and be very clear on how they want to use the additional attention. Alternatively, if the leader reacts emotionally to the set back, the opportunity can be lost and their leadership is likely to be placed under additional scrutiny.