Football

Do managerial mind games really work?

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Jose Mourinho has appointed himself as the new king of mind games since returning to the Premier League last summer, taking over from retired Sir Alex Ferguson.

Fergie was a master of managerial mind games, an expert in getting under the skin of his opposing managers and causing them to crack.

Unfortunately, for Mourinho, he hasn't been as successful, described by former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson as a "boring bully".

Mourinho is not the only manager to try and use well-placed words to influence their opponents, with Rafael Benitez and Kevin Keegan having a go in the past too.

Famously, both tried against Ferguson, and both were unsuccessful. So do mind games really work? Or is it just managers having a dig, hoping for the best.

Mourinho decided to ramp up the build up to Chelsea's FA Cup match against Manchester City last weekend by revealing his thoughts on the lack of suspension for Yaya Toure, plus the difference in money spent in the transfer window between the two clubs.

City boss Manuel Pelligrini was less than impressed, and refused to be drawn into a battle of words.

The result proved that Pelligrini was right not to get involved, with his team doing their talking on the field winning 2-0 in a convincing display.

Mourinho also decided to turn on Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, calling him a "specialist in failure".

While the lack of trophies in the cabinet at Arsenal in the last few years prove that Mourinho may have a point, the manner in which he did so was seen by Wenger and many observers as offensive.

Wenger, like Pelligrini, refused to discuss the comments directly after Arsenal had beaten Liverpool in their FA Cup tie last Sunday, deeming them embarrassing.

So it hasn't worked for Mourinho, but other managers have proven it can be a factor in the result, not always in their favour though.

Ferguson was the target of both Keegan and Benitez's attempted mind games in recent history.

Keegan famously stated that Manchester United had to face a tricky game away to Middlesbrough and try and get a result in an often replayed rant. United did and stole the title away from under Keegan's nose.

Benitez felt the pressure of Manchester United chasing his Liverpool side down in 2009. After Benitez comments, Liverpool drew three games in succession, handing the title to United.

These two examples prove that mind games rarely work in the way that managers want them to.

Away from football, cricketers are constantly trying to get inside the mind of the batsmen, to try force an error. Mitchell Johnson was pretty effective in doing so in the last Ashes test. His sledging of the English batsmen was probably a factor in his incredible wicket tally of 37 throughout the tour.

On the pitch, comments to try and disrupt the opposing team's players can affect the results. Fans also chip in to try and distract the opposition team. Sometimes this can put a player off. For example, Graeme le Saux recently spoke out about how difficult he found it being abused by fans.

In his book, Left Field: A Footballer Apart, he comments that he almost stopped playing because of homosexuality taunting from fans and fellow professionals.

Managers often use their pre-match press conference to hype up the games, putting the pressure on their teams. A lot of what is said is just to gain headlines.

The majority of the time it is forgotten about because it often has no direct effect on the outcome of the game.

On the rare occasions it does, the game goes down as one affected by mind games, whether it actually is or not.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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