Just before the Arsenal / Middlesbrough kick-off on Saturday, the camera panned to show Aitor Karanka speaking to his assistant on the bench – whilst shielding his mouth with his hand so no-one could make out what he was saying. Now I struggle to understand half of what Karanka says in a quiet TV interview where the only distraction is to fall asleep, so quite what he was trying to achieve I don’t know.
He’s either saying something rude – probably about Wengers’ big coat that he doesn’t want picked up on camera, or he’s worried that someone from the Arsenal team will glean some tactical jewel that’ll turn the game in their favour, either by eavesdropping – or by reading his lips.
Are we seriously saying things have come to this - because Karanka isn't the only manager doing this now - that teams are worried that the opposition will lip-read their conversations? First of all, who knows what language he’s going to be talking in – most of the foreign managers will know three languages – how many specialist linguistic lip-readers are going to be on duty, and are they relying on the TV coverage or do they have their own camera network? Lip-sync TV?
The next shot was of two Boro players just before the kick-off also having a conversation, both shielding their mouths. Who do they think is watching? Do they think each team has a lip-reading expert assigned to each one of their players hidden in the ground somewhere or do they think the opposition players can lip-read? Hell, most footballers can’t read twitter let alone real conversations.
However, once the conversations were out of the way, Boro were a revelation. They really should have spoiled Wengers 67th birthday more than they did, and in Adama Traoré they have the quickest thing to come out of Middlesbrough since the A19. Anyone lip-reading Karanka’s conversation at full time would probably have picked up the phrase ‘he really tore them a new one’.
Finally on the Boro’ theme, a word about Steve Gibson. Do they give awards to Chairmen? If so, he should be right up there. What he’s done with the Club and for the Club is amazing, and all team loyalties notwithstanding, his achievements should be recognized on a wider stage.
Communication hasn’t really been a problem for José Mourinho – not till now anyway, but the performance and the result of the Chelsea game left him lost for words. In the ensuing press conference he looked like Harry Redknapp had promised to run him home, and he just couldn’t express his feelings like he wanted:
We made an incredible defensive mistake, I say incredible in capitals.
I’m pretty sure you can’t do that – speak in capitals. It’s like listening to sign-language. You can try and accentuate your point, perhaps make yourself bigger at the relevant part of the sentence to emphasize the meaning, but if you do that in a press conference you're going to frighten the people in the front row and everyone else is going to think you’re just being a complete moron.
And I can’t believe that after all the time José spent with Bobby Robson, he never learnt how to express the frustration and disappointment of a football game in the vernacular. All he had to do was walk into the press conference and say ‘ today - they tore us a new one - any questions’?
At the end of the defeat, José grasped Antonio Conte and spoke directly into his ear - as it turned out, in Italian. We know it was in Italian because Sky Italia picked up the conversation and it was all over the media within minutes that he'd accused Conte of trying to humiliate him by trying to whip up the crowd at 4-0 instead of 1-0.
First off, José should have been humiliated by the scoreline and performance of his team let alone any response from the crowd, and secondly, Karanka is right - they really are out there lip-reading everything you say, in whatever language you choose - how scary is that?
There is an answer - they should all learn to just communicate with emoji's. It is the worlds fastest growing language after all, and I would love to see the emoji for 'he tore them a new one'.
So, José and Manchester United are currently five points worse off than they were at the same point last season under Louis van Gaal. Perhaps there’s something rotten at the heart of the Club? Perhaps José needs more time – after all, Sir Alex himself says it needs five years to build a team to challenge for the title, except José did it in his first season at Chelsea in 2004/5. I just think José needs more love, needs to feel the love, we need to see that smile back.
Smiling all the time is Jurgen Klopp who admitted this week that he last felt satisfied in 2012 – and only for five seconds. He should try supporting Sunderland, five seconds in 2012 – yep, I’d take that. And Antonio Conte, fresh from stuffing José, wants to celebrate by building a bigger technical area for himself at Stamford Bridge.
He says: "For me, it's very difficult because it is only two metres. I have to ask my club to change my area." Small men asking for bigger things - he should be careful, people will jump to conclusions.
Why do managers and all the back-room staff have their initials on their tracksuits? Isn’t a bit like kids having to have name tags for their school kit? Are they afraid one of the players will lose a top and pinch theirs? And where do the managers get changed – are they in the changing room with the players, or do they have their own special little room? Is that why managers always come out last – because they wait until the players have left before getting ready?
Manchester City are on a run of five games without a win, and Guardiola admitted that ‘something happened’ to cause their dip in form. He says it runs much deeper than individual errors but neglected to say whether he felt there was something rotten at the heart of the Club. The players were kept back in the dressing room for fifty minutes at the end of the game on Saturday. The Club has quashed speculation that Guardiola had lost his tracksuit.