Eden Hazard must be aware that with big performances come big responsibilities, according to Jose Mourinho.
Hazard was instrumental in our 4-3 win at Sunderland in midweek, scoring a brace and providing an assist for Frank Lampard and, speaking ahead of this afternoon’s trip to Stoke City, Mourinho believes the expectation levels on the Belgian will only increase if he maintains the type of form he produced at the Stadium of Light.
‘Eden is Eden, with his qualities he has to try to improve and I think what he has to try to improve is the way he starts every game; the focus, the ambition, the mentality. If he does that the potential is of course very good,’ explained the Chelsea manager.
‘I think he needs to become comfortable with big responsibilities, this is a quality of the big players. They know they are better than the others, they accept the responsibility of being better than the others, when the team is not playing well enough to win the match they know the team is waiting for them to resolve the problems. The football world is full of teams where an individual can make the difference when collectively you cannot do it.
‘He’s a fantastic player for us, he can only improve, but if he can feel comfortable with his responsibility to be a special player that can make a difference for us and for him.
‘The last performance is not an easy one to repeat. I’m not waiting for him today, from minute one to minute 96, to do what he did in the last game. He was unstoppable but I’m not expecting that; I’m expecting the same mentality, the same approach, and if does that, great.
‘It’s a normal tendency that when a special performance comes you are always waiting for more, but as Chelsea manager I prefer to say against Sunderland he was able to have that performance because his team was very good.
‘The ball was always arriving, the team was always in possession, the team was always dynamic in the way we went from defensive phase to attacking phase, and because of that he had fantastic conditions to perform.’
Going into the weekend fixtures, we trail leaders Arsenal, who take on in-form Everton tomorrow, by four points.
Mourinho is no stranger to producing teams capable of challenging at the top of the league, whether in England, Spain, Italy or Portugal, but he admits the unpredictable nature of this season’s Premier League has provided a different type of challenge to those he has been accustomed to in the past.
‘I’ve always been involved in a two-horse race,’ he said. ‘Inter and Roma, Porto and Benfica, Real and Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United. Two-horse races are completely different, not just because you are competing against a direct opponent, but because normally if a league is a two-horse race, it means the two horses never lose.
‘When it comes to four, five, six teams, like it is now, every weekend someone loses points. When it comes to this profile of league, the best thing to do is not to look at the others, because there are too many, and just look at yourself.
‘At this moment we have a group of six contenders more or less with the same potential. After that you can feel Everton, Newcastle, Southampton, Aston Villa, Swansea, all these teams. You can feel the gap is much shorter, even the teams at the other end of the table, they are all difficult. We’ve just played against the team that are bottom of the league and I don’t understand how they are bottom, so it’s tough.’
John Terry is expected to skipper the side this afternoon on his 33rd birthday, preserving a run which has seen the defender start every Premier League game this season thus far.
On his return to the club over the summer, one of Mourinho’s first tasks was to speak to Terry, who endured a difficult 2012/13 campaign, and reassure the skipper of his importance to the group, and the manager has been delighted with the player’s response.
‘I had to because I think his self-esteem was affected in relation to last season,’ said the Blues boss.
‘I have no stats in my hand but he’s probably played more matches already this season than he did the whole of last season. I’m guessing, maybe I’m wrong, but if I’m wrong I’m not wrong by a long distance.
‘He was a little bit affected, in a quiet way feeling the doubts about him, so yes, I told him I’m not here to help him, or to give something he doesn’t deserve, but I believe if you work really hard from day one you have a chance to play more than you did last season. I was far from thinking he would play the first 14 matches consecutively in a row, but he’s doing well, he’s behaving well, he’s working well.
‘John, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, what they are always going to have from me is respect. I know working with players at a certain moment, and then stopping and working with them again seven or eight years later, nothing is the same. For example, Ashley is not playing, Lampard was on the bench the other day, Essien isn’t playing a lot, John is, but probably next week he isn’t.
‘But what I want from these personal and professional relations is that the respect must be always untouchable. The players must be comfortable playing or not playing, starting or not starting, being on the bench, the players should feel important as always.
‘John is the one that is playing a lot, in fact he’s played every match in the Premier League, but he’s not playing internationally, so while the other guys go to their national teams he’s staying at the club and he can take care of himself and his body. That helps him to be so important and to play every game.’