Cesc Fabregas dive: The mask slips as affair reveals the real Jose Mourinho

COMMENT:  Dropped points allowed us a glimpse of the inner workings of Mourinho's mind

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Penalty or not, the Cesc Fabregas affair has returned to us the essential Jose Mourinho, suffused in paranoia, bound by bias, remorselessly engaged.

It was ever thus, of course, and utterly shatters the pretence of the majority of this season when victory after routine victory produced  pre- and post-match press conferences characterised by benign indifference.

The incident at Southampton that provoked all the fury would have been less of an issue had his players converted dominance into points. For what it’s worth, it looked to me like a blameless issue.

The referee has to make a split-second decision. With the benefit of 360-degree video replays it appears that Matt Targett made no attempt to tackle but rather steadied himself as Fabregas changed direction. Neither player took his eye off the ball.

Targett’s right leg was passive as Fabregas advanced. He went to ground as a result of tripping himself over the prone limb of the defender, not as a consequence of any lunge. Thus the episode was entirely accidental and outside the sphere of culpability.

The moment Fabregas went down

The referee saw it differently, but his response was instinctive, not by design. It turned out to be wrong. Fabregas did not deserve to be booked, but to claim that Anthony Taylor was acting in accordance with a strategic campaign against Chelsea is plainly absurd, revealing more about the inner workings of Mourinho’s mind, about how he sees the world rather than the nature of the world itself. 

If Mourinho wants to talk about strategy and coordinated action playing out, then the accusation more readily applies to him. No manager in the game today has built more of a reputation on the quality and thoroughness of his approach or the adept manner in which he reads the bigger picture.

If there is, therefore, a plan coming together, might it not be in his attempt to set the agenda, to mark out the territory before fixtures at a crucial period in the year – to make it that bit harder for the refereeing community to decide against his team next time?

This part of the job comes under the chapter heading “dark arts” in the coaching manual. It has particular application to the übergaffer, the big personality at a huge club, who uses his power and prestige to control the game environment. Sir Alex Ferguson was a master of the practice at Manchester United, a man for whom Mourinho has boundless admiration.

Mourinho betrayed the insouciance of the recent past with a roll-call of incidents in which his players have been wronged: “For example, the game against Hull, do you think the most important thing in the game was Cahill [for his dive] or Filipe Luis almost with a broken leg?

“After West Ham, Enner Valencia made a very bad dive at the end of the game and Sam Allardyce is talking about [Branislav] Ivanovic. Why? Luis and Eden Hazard could be in hospital with broken legs and you are speaking about Cahill.”

Who among the coaching priesthood has not made the same complaint? It is the default position of a manager when the distribution of points does not go his way. It was all in there, the bad breaks classified in date order, ready to roll out at the appropriate moment.

Had Mourinho known Manchester City would surrender a two-goal lead at home to Burnley later in the day, it might not have been necessary to reveal so much of his bottom lip.

“Today, penalty, points. No penalty, no points,” was his summary analysis of the St Mary’s experience. Another, more accurate summation might be: “Today, goals, points. No goals, no points.”

Assuming City do not continue to indulge the Christmas spirit and hand Mourinho the gift of surrender at home to relegation favourites, there will be more days like this.

Three points apart at the season’s half way stage is neither here nor there, and next up for Jose it’s Tottenham at the Lane. Oh, the drama of it all.



Premier League yellow cards for diving since Jose Mourinho took over at Chelsea at the start of the 2013-14 season:

6 Chelsea

5 Man United

4 Everton

3 Man City, Sunderland

2 Crystal Palace, Hull, Spurs

1 Arsenal, Aston Villa, Burnley, Cardiff, Fulham,  Liverpool, Stoke, West Brom