The Eden Hazard situation

Chelsea beat Aston Villa 2-0 on the weekend and one of the leading stories to come out of the weekend was Jose Mourinho leaving Eden Hazard out of the team and his explanation as to why.

Jose Mourinho has said that if Hazard wants to get back into the team he has to learn to defend better like Pedro and Willian. Now obviously this has sparked debate whether Mourinho was right or wrong to say this, whether it is a ridiculous thing to say, so I am here with my thoughts on the matter.

A lot of Chelsea fans on Twitter before the Villa game seemed to have no problem with Hazard being dropped, they thought it was fair, they were happy to see Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Baba Rahman get a chance. After the game, I saw a few say that they agreed with Mourinho dropping Hazard but not for the reason he stated, but simply because he has been far from good enough.

My thoughts?

I think him not being good enough includes him not working for the team and doing his team duties. Hazard hasn’t delivered this season, and that includes his defensive duties, for example against Newcastle in the last minute he gave the ball away and he didn’t get back up to his feet quick enough (he wasn’t injured) and go back and try to win the ball and it allowed Newcastle to get right down the left hand side and had to be put out for a last minute corner, which thankfully came to nothing. It is situations like this that Jose is talking about when he says Hazard needs to improve defensively, and I don’t think that is an unreasonable request.

Jose himself said that he needed more balance in the Aston Villa game and that because Hazard wasn’t doing his defensive duty it meant that the midfielders were always looking left and right and looking to see if their was cover and taking Hazard out was part of a tactical switch. Again, you can’t argue with that, especially as our defence, mainly Branislav Ivanovic has struggled so far this season and how Baba Rahman is still adjusting.

Simply, the team need Hazard to take on more team duties than last season right now, and as he isn’t performing going forward in the other way, he is offering little to no compensation for that, so at this moment in time he may struggle to get in the team if everyone else is fit.

I also saw other people say but he is a winger, he shouldn’t have to defend.

Well, all players have team duties and have some role to play when the team is not in possession, every player has a defensive duty of some kind, even if it is minimal. However these players have to deliver week in, week out going forward, just like Hazard was last season.

Also, I would say when the team is playing bad, sacrifices have to be made for a while, while things improve and get back on track.

Oh and I would also say that if you expect fullbacks to overlap and get forward and provide space and drag others out of position etc., to help out the attack, then why is it absurd to ask attackers to help out the other way. For me it is a team game and while people obviously have their main roles, they have to do other things to help the team and should want to do so if it benefits the team.

A lot of people when Jose talks about this go on a full rant about him and how he ruins players and wants to turn attackers into defenders etc.

My thoughts?

Yes, under Mourinho players are more restricted than under other managers a lot of the time, but that isn’t always a bad thing, probably sways more good than bad in my opinion, although I am sure others would disagree.

Also what I find funny is as I said before, all players are required to do so and Jose isn’t the first to ask for an attacker to do more work for the team, Carlo Ancelotti said Gareth Bale needed to work on the defensive side of his game and I am sure plenty of other managers have done so publicly and privately.

I think people just like using this as a negative thing to say about Jose, but it makes me laugh as they don’t kick up as much fuss about the pundit, commentator or fan that says it week in, week out. In fact, they could have moaned about it themselves, whether they admit it, or even realise it.

Yes, every week someone is complaining about someone not tracking back all game and leaving a player exposed, or not filling in and helping out their fullback, not clearing the ball and costing their team a goal. It is the same principle, the attacking player hasn’t done their share of team work or their defensive job for the team.

Some people are upset that Hazard was called out, when Fabregas and Ivanovic haven’t been.

I can totally see why people may think this. I think in terms of Ivanovic, he is leaving at the end of the season and I think there is the sense of this is him just maybe coming to the end, so in a way there is no real purpose to come out publicly, whereas with Hazard there is a point. It could also be that Ivanovic and Fabregas have responded to private criticism, whereas Hazard hasn’t, or it could simply be that he responds best to public criticism, remember Hazard has been criticised for this before at the end of the 2013/2014 season after the Atletico Madrid game at Stamford Bridge. It was that very criticism that sparked last season’s Hazard, Player of the Year, Hazard.

This style probably isn’t everyone’s way of doing it, but it is very common, for example, Louis Van Gaal has come out and said that Memphis Depay has got to follow his philosophy.

What I would say though, that given the poor start to the season we have had, I would question is this the right time to be doing this. At first, I was like he shouldn’t have done this, this will have no good effect whatsoever, given the terrible start, we could have just done without the press running this story.

However, while I still think this or he could have at least waited a while before doing this publicly, or just said he needs to perform better overall to get back in the team, I now have a positive of him doing this. The positive I actually saw in a good article in The Telegraph which talked about this situation and it mentioned that it will have sent a message to the other players, to start performing as no one is undroppable. This is a positive sign of him doing it.

Ultimately Jose isn’t wrong to demand more from Hazard in a defensive manner, and it is wrong to criticise him for this and claim he is trying to ruin Hazard, as ultimately he wants what we all want, the Hazard of last year back and hopefully a bit more. He isn’t asking Hazard or any creative players to defend for the sake of it, he asking them to do it for the team, and this Chelsea team right now need all hands on deck in defending. Oh and of course he wants them to still do what they can do going forward,in fact he is probably desperate for them to do that, it will ease pressure on the defence and ultimately mean they can do their main job first.

Lastly a quick mention on defending in football. Defending is fifty  percent of the game, good defending should not be looked down upon and should be celebrated. Mind you, when in football it isn’t getting the right amount of respect, then of course the majority of fans won’t give it respect.

I also think people need to respect different styles in football. People have preferences to what they want to watch, which is perfectly fine, but it doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t get respect or be deemed any less worthy. What makes football great and exciting is its unpredictability, and different styles and formations are apart of that. No defending isn’t simple, it isn’t easy to have teams sit back, it takes time to set that up and work on it, training sessions to ensure everyone knows their job. Also as I said, its fifty percent of the game.

He only got his place back in the starting lineup midweek against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League because of an injury to Pedro, although after the performance he put in he might have earned his place back.


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