Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has told Eden Hazard to improve his defensive workrate after dropping the playmaker for the Premier League champions’ 2-0 win at home to Aston Villa.
Hazard, the recipient of numerous player of the year awards last term as Chelsea won the title, began on the substitutes’ bench as Diego Costa scored one and forced an Alan Hutton own goal to ease the pressure on Mourinho.
“I left out Hazard because we are conceding lots of goals. We need to defend better,” Mourinho said. “When you don’t have the ball, quality means nothing and what means [he thumps his chest] … you have or you don’t have.
“It was just a tactical decision, leaving super quality on the bench, but bringing tactical discipline and hoping that the team could be solid.
“Willian and Pedro did amazing defensive work and allowed the [central] midfield players to be very comfortable.”
Mourinho said Hazard will be left out until he makes the same defensive contribution as Willian and Pedro.
“I continue that way, or he comes in our direction and tries to replicate the same work that Willian and Pedro did,” Mourinho added.
Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek made his first league start, but was replaced at half-time by Nemanja Matic. The 19-year-old also has work to do defensively, according to Mourinho.
“I wanted more solidity,” he said. “He’s fantastic with his vision and the decisions he makes on the pitch. But without the ball you cannot compare him, tactically, with the others.”
Mourinho addressed his whole squad before the match, which was the first since Chelsea lost at home to Southampton on Oct. 3 and prompted the first managerial vote of confidence in Roman Abramovich’s 12-year ownership.
“I told the players that this is not the moment to think about themselves, to think about their personal situation, a moment to moan or to try to be selfish in the approach,” Mourinho said.
“This is a moment for the team, just the team, and nothing else. I have to make decisions to try and bring results back.”
Mourinho knew Costa would make an impact on his return following a three-match suspension.
“The way he was working in the past two weeks with us, I knew clearly he would bring something positive for us,” Mourinho said.
Mourinho said: “I would expect never to come from a bad period into a brilliant game.
“I was expecting this kind of answer and the answer was there. The result in this moment is the most important thing.”
Earlier, Mourinho told Sky Sports in the team tunnel that he had no worries about being spending time at the lower end of the table.
“We are not afraid of being relegated — we know come the end of the season we will be in the top five or six at least. But at the moment we are not there and we need points, so today we won at home and they are three points that were deserved and the players fought for.”
However, he did admit that Chelsea were not the Premier League’s elite squad, telling the BBC: “We are not the best team in the country, but we are a team with a very good manager and very good players, trying to reach a normal level.”