Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has denied that he was “humiliating” midfielder Nemanja Matic during the 3-1 defeat to Southampton.
Matic was substituted by Mourinho just 27 minutes after being introduced to the action at half-time, immediately after Graziano Pelle had given Southampton a 3-1 lead.
It was the first time Chelsea have conceded three goals in a home game under Mourinho, and leaves them on eight points from their eight Premier League games so far.
Despite the manner of Matic’s substitution, and the brevity of his appearance on Saturday, Mourinho is adamant that the decision was not made to ridicule his midfielder.
“It was not humiliating,” he said. “It was not the case. I do not do that to anyone, in football and in life.
“With the players, it is not easy. I like them, I trust them. I know they are good players but some of them are in a difficult moment – Matic is one of them. He is not playing well. He is not sharp defensively. He is making mistakes with the ball and not making the best decisions.
“I brought him on because even though Ramires did a great job in the first half with [Sadio] Mane, with a yellow card and an inexperienced referee I was afraid of a second yellow card and I changed him for Matic.
“Then when we concede a goal and I need to make a change. I want to play another striker, I have to take a player from the midfield. I kept Oscar because he is the one that creates more.
“I kept [Cesc] Fabregas because he is the one – maybe because of his formation in a difficult place to play which is Barcelona – who copes better with the pressure. Even not playing well, his emotional stability is high.
“So I decided to take off Matic but I like the player very much, I have a fantastic relationship with the boy. Humiliating him? For sure, I was not.”
Chelsea face Aston Villa next Saturday, one of three clubs in the Premier League with fewer points than them.