Thursday, 30 November 2017

Guardiola clash with Redmond begs question: What if it was Mourinho?

Pep Guardiola reacts as he talks with Southampton's midfielder Nathan Redmond.
Jose Mourinho has been dubbed an "enemy of football" and a "coward" among many other slights on his character -- so how do you think he would have been perceived if he acted like Pep Guardiola on Wednesday night?

Witness the Manchester City manager's manic confrontation with Nathan Redmond after City's 2-1 win over Southampton. Wide-eyed and bouncing with ferocious energy, he marched over to Redmond, threw his arms around his neck, pushed his chest and then went about setting the world to rights towards a player presumably crestfallen at seeing one point evaporate into nothing, courtesy of the late Raheem Sterling show.

It was all rather weird to see. Was it necessary? Of course not. Guardiola's explanation of the incident was, in keeping with this episode, a bit peculiar.

"I said what good a player he is," Guardiola told a news conference. "Last season he destroyed us here. I didn't know him last season and didn't realise how good he is. Today he could not attack because he defends all the time."

A heated debate between two protagonists in the wake of a dramatic finale isn't "bad" per se, but it was hardly a magnanimous reaction. So what if Southampton defended stoutly against City? They were facing a side that had scored 42 goals in 13 ahead of the match -- a rate of 3.2 a game. It isn't down to Southampton to play nice. Why even expect them to?

Just imagine if Mourinho, sent off against Southampton back in September for walking half a yard or so on to the field of play, went on to the pitch at the end and mirrored Guardiola's actions. The reaction, you could argue, would be rather different to the one that met his rival's.

"Look at how thoughtful and passionate about football Pep is!" has been the reaction from some. Would such a claim have been reserved for Mourinho? Of course not; it's much more likely to be: "Look at the state of Mourinho. He's lost it and making everything about himself."


Mourinho was sent off and banned for one match by the Football Association last season for kicking a water bottle in anger after Paul Pogba was booked for diving against West Ham. He was also fined £16,000. Memories of his minor misdemeanour came flooding back in the wake of Guardiola's clash.

A player's or manager's image has become increasingly more important and it helps shape opinions on their actions. Guardiola, praised for his cerebral approach to football and the way his teams win with style, has been able to get away with more than others. He's deemed different and when he acts such a way, it's just classed as a typical Pep thing to do.

Jurgen Klopp, too. There's an irritating propensity from some observers to categorise him as a wacky, zany character. A lovable eccentric, who mirrors how his football teams play the game too.

Witness this risible assertion from fourth official Neil Swarbrick back in February, when a manic Klopp confronted him during Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Anfield.

There was a feisty exchange -- very similar to Antonio Conte's actions on the touchline that got him sent off against Swansea on Wednesday -- yet Klopp claimed Swarbrick said: "No problem, I like your passion!"

It was a rather sickly thing to say and that episode, plus the Guardiola clash on Wednesday, highlights some stark differences in how managers and their actions are perceived. One man's passion is another man's poison. It depends on who we're talking about. Perhaps you could argue past indiscretions shape how a manager is viewed and with a rap sheet that includes poking someone else's eye, maybe Mourinho can't complain that when he blows his top, the authorities take a dim view and fans start to complain.

Guardiola, this episode shows, can behave rather weirdly at times but he has yet to outage the masses in the way Mourinho has done, so the Catalan benefits from having a little credit in the bank.

But it was all a bit distasteful all the same. Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino asserted that Guardiola "struggles to be a gentleman" in victory and the episode on Wednesday night backs up such a claim.

Was it worthy of punishment? Different people will have different opinions. Could Mourinho and Manchester United be justified in feeling frustrated a comparatively minor indiscretion, the heinous act of kicking an inanimate object, was punished? Absolutely.

Redmond, for his part, showed little-to-no emotion, which would on the face of it corroborate Guardiola's account that he was hardly attacking the Southampton winger with the ruthless abandon his Manchester City side show when they go forward. Had Guardiola been insulting or abusive, you'd imagine Redmond would have shown more in response.

All this has done is underline the belief that many fans, pundits and neutral observers have grown tired of Mourinho and the baggage he brings. Guardiola, for now, can carry on as he pleases.

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