Eden Hazard will have to prove he is worthy of gaining back his starting place at Chelsea by improving his defensive output, says Jose Mourinho.
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 and pile more on Villa boss Tim Sherwood.
“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 (thumps 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.
“I continue that way, or he comes in our direction and tries to replicate the same work that Willian and Pedro did,” Mourinho added.
Mourinho addressed his whole squad prior to the match, which was the first since Chelsea lost at home to Southampton on October 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.”
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 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.
Villa were just the visitors Chelsea were hoping for in the midst of their crisis, having had one win in 13 prior league games at Stamford Bridge while conceding 30 times in the previous eight visits.
They were equally as accommodating on this occasion as Brad Guzan’s woeful clearance and Joleon Lescott’s poor control allowed Willian to nick in before he centred and Costa netted his third of the season.
If Chelsea had not had much luck to date, as Mourinho has said, they received more good fortune when a Costa shot looped in off Hutton to complete the victory.
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.”