It seems that in every season, and in every title race, the issue of mind games comes up.
Former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was often credited as being a master of getting into opposing managers heads with his words.
The likes of Kevin Keegan and Arsene Wenger have been Ferguson’s supposed victims of these antics, and now Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho seems to be assuming the title of master of the mind games after he returned to the Premier League at the start of this season.
He has been targeting Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool as they have battled it out with his side towards the top end of the Premier League, and City boss Manuel Pellegrini has hit out at Mourinho.
He said: “Intelligent managers don’t play mind games.
“I don’t know if you think that managers that seem to play mind games are more intelligent. I don’t think so.
“It’s not my duty to respond to what Mourinho says. My way of thinking is that the four teams will have the same options to win the title.”
If Chelsea had won instead of losing at Crystal Palace at the weekend, some may have suggested that Pellegrini was starting to crack.
Whilst it makes good copy for the media, it’s hard to say whether it has a profound effect. Some things may get to managers and players but whether it translates onto the pitch is unclear. Some of the results may be a coincidence when sides who are the target of those words drop points a short time afterwards.
Mourinho has done everything possible this season to take the pressure of his side in this season’s title race, playing down expectations and saying they have little or no chance of winning the league – despite currently sitting just the two points behind league leaders Liverpool with six games to go.
No doubt he will try to pile the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City in the hope they will buckle and allow Chelsea to claim what many regard now as an improbable title. At the end of the day, all three managers have tried to shift away the favourites tag in some way or another. They probably all play ‘mind games.’
These mind games could just be regarded as good man management and protecting their own players.
Either way, it’s almost certain that we’ll see more of them over the coming weeks.