It is said in Genesis 1:27 that ‘God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them’ and so it has often been with football managers.
The greatest teams were often the on-field embodiment of their manager’s personality, finely crafted to represent their values, not just in football, but in life itself.
Never has this seemed more apparent than in Saturday’s Premier League match between West Ham and Chelsea, in which Jose Mourinho and his side were a perfect synchronicity of ill-discpline and petulance.
After Nemanja Matic was dismissed for two bookable offences in the first half, shortly followed by assistant first-team coach Silvino Louro. At halftime, Mourinho was summoned to the referee’s room by Jon Moss and was banished to the stands, like a recalcitrant schoolboy called into the principal’s office only to leave with a detention for his troubles.
Chelsea had earlier been denied an equalizer by the wonders of modern technology, as Kurt Zouma’s header was shown to have not crossed the goal-line by a matter of millimetres. One would be forgiven for suggesting it was karmic retribution for Mourinho’s ongoing obsession with Liverpool’s ‘ghost goal’ in the 2005 Champions League semi final.
Cesc Fabregas was the victim of a marginal offside call before Andy Carroll head the Hammers into the lead in the 79th minute and it looked like just one of those days for Chelsea, i.e. almost any match day of the 2015/16 season.
On the theme of teams made in their manager’s image, Aston Villa slumped to another hapless home defeat to Swansea. “Tactics” Tim Sherwood, whose reign at Villa came to an abrupt, if totally predictable, end following the 2-1 loss after 28 games in charge.
He enjoyed some inexplicable highs during his time in the Midlands – making the FA Cup Final – and lows – losing that same final 4-0 to Arsenal, and leaves the side glued to the bottom of the table having lost six matches in a row.
Elsewhere, Tottenham condemned Bournemouth to a second straight 5-1 defeat, in which Artur Boruc gave the kind of performance you rarely see in professional football nowadays, a refreshingly wretched display of goalkeeping that effectively gifted Spurs three goals.
Sunderland managed an undeserved victory in the Tyne-Wear derby, their fifth in a row. It’s the longest run in the history of the fixture and is a result as reliable as a mid-season Arsenal slump.
In the other big derby, Manchester United and Manchester City meandered to a dour 0-0 draw, or a 2-hour loss for anyone unlucky enough to watch it. In a game almost entirely without incident, Wayne Rooney went missing more than the Sydney FC tifo, recording the least touches and worst passing accuracy of any outfield player. It was a fitting performance for a match that saw its first shot on target in the 83rd minute and had as much presence as Mourinho at the post-West Ham press conference.