Oof, what in the world happened yesterday? Almost as if the universe was saying, “Nope, just because you’re in the Europa Conference League does NOT mean you won't be embarrassed in European competition again”, Roma were run roughshod by Bodø in a 6-1 beatdown that is easily one of the most embarrassing moments in the club’s history. And with a manager as fiery and combative as Mourinho at the helm, it'll come as no surprise that his post-match presser split opinion on how appropriate his comments were.
Read below the transcript published on the team’s site, with some closing thoughts from yours truly.
A heavy loss - who has to take responsibility?
“I do. I decided to put out the side I did. It’s my responsibility. Obviously I did it with good intentions in mind, for two main reasons. From one side, I wanted to give a chance to those players who have been working really hard but have not had much chance to play. From the other side, considering the squad we have and all the games we have to play, I wanted to rest some of the players that have played in pretty much every game.
“On an artificial pitch, in weather conditions like these, I decided to rotate a lot of players. Then, we lost to a side that was better than us. It’s simple. The Bodo first team is better than the one that started the game for us.”
So it’s not about mentality or tactical approach or underestimating the opposition - it’s just ability?
“Look, if I could always play with the same guys then I would. But I think that if I did that I would be taking some big risks, because there is a big difference in the quality between one group of players and another. And in a group stage match like this, when there are six games and we already have six points with two more games to come in Rome, I decided to make the changes I did.
“I knew the limits of some of our players, it’s nothing new, but obviously I expected more of a response. But as the decision was mine, so it is me that has to take responsibility.”
Is there a worry that a defeat like this will leave a lasting effect on the team?
“It always leaves an impact. I don’t have any doubt about that. But I’ve already spoken to the lads in the dressing room and I was honest with them.
“Perhaps I can’t be honest with you [journalists], I can’t open up that much, because we are talking about the privacy of a family. A family that really has a strong bond, strong empathy for each other.
“But I’ve never hiddedn from the fact that I knew the squad had its limitations: the first-team of 12 or 13 is one thing and then the others are another. The only positive thing now is that no-one will ask me why I always pick the same players.”
Sunday’s game against Napoli now becomes vital...
“You can’t have any slip-ups, yet you can always slip up. That’s football. But our main team, if we call it that, is playing well and deserves to have more points than we do right now. They are playing well with the right attitude.
“So on Sunday we will go out with that same attitude again. But obviously with the weight of this defeat on our shoulders, a historic defeat I would say.”
You have never conceded six goals before in your coaching career...
“Yes, I know, but the issue is not what I feel about these things. A six-goal defeat is not just about me but about the players as well.”
If the board asks you for an explanation, what will you say?
“I will explain things as I normally would, with some things I’ve already said in private. Things I said even before losing 6-1. It’s not losing 6-1 that will make me say something publicly to you guys that I have already said privately to the relevant people.
“I will try to ensure these things continue to remain behind closed doors as much as possible, without getting out.”
Personally, I don't have a problem with anything Mourinho said. This is who Mourinho has always been, and it’s resulted in an extremely successful managerial career for the Portuguese tactician, so of course, he was going to react this way following such a heavy defeat. Many a Roma supporter has come out to denounce his comments, particularly his comments about the quality of his second eleven, but I think the purpose of his comments has more to do with 1) distancing the result from his first choice eleven, so that it’s not weighing on them as much going into the Napoli match, and 2) to end the questioning regarding his rotations, which he touched on in his responses.
Now, is that the way you want to go if you want to build the confidence of your bench and team chemistry overall? Probably not, right? But who knows what Jose said to his players following the result, and a running theme of the season thus far, particularly in Mourinho’s pressers, has been the bond and camaraderie of the squad, so it wouldn’t surprise me if behind the scenes he’s rallying the troops and trying to create that “us against the world” mentality that’s served him so well in the past.
Ultimately, the effects of this result and Mourinho’s comments won't be realized until a few matches down the road at the earliest, so will this dark chapter in Roma’s history bring the squad together? Or are the cracks already beginning to show in The Special One’s Roma adventure?