The Premier League is back and it’s like it’s never been away because, after week one, who are we talking about. Yes, Jose Mourinho. Same as it ever was.
By Dave Bowler
For the Special One it was a less than special start to the campaign with Chelsea scratching out a draw against Swansea at Stamford Bridge and losing Courtois to the most blatant of sendings off which they then had the temerity to challenge. As ever on the rare occasions when Chelsea do get a poor result, the post-match attention was fixed not on the game or Chelsea’s failings on the day but on a media storm whipped up by Mourinho, either out of frustration or simply to deflect the eye from a poor opening to the campaign.
It was the club’s medical staff that came under his withering fire for having gone on the pitch to treat Eden Hazard during, appropriately enough, injury time. The fact that Hazard then had to go to the touchline before being allowed back on temporarily reduced Chelsea to nine men and Mourinho was seething.
Seething not at Courtois for his mistake nor at Hazard for falling to the floor when, according to his manager, he was simply a bit tired, but at the medical staff who had gone to treat a player who they thought was in need of attention.
Mourinho blasted them for not understanding the game and leaving his team open to late defeat. But surely there are other issues of far more importance here? Particularly in the wake of recent controversies over players carrying on with head injuries or not being treated appropriately for them, hasn’t the time come when we put all medical decisions in the hands of trained people rather than hysterical football managers who are driven by one thing and one thing alone – results. Surely player welfare has to be above that and so we have to take it out of their hands?
Hazard clearly didn’t have a head injury but as he was writhing around on the ground, surely the medics had cause for concern? They have a greater responsibility than simply pandering to Mourinho. They have to protect the health and fitness of the players. That is what they were doing in this case. They were over protective as it turns out in this case, but better that than being negligent surely? Where the debate should be focused is on the player and, in particular, his manager. Was Hazard simply being what is euphemistically termed “professional”?
He took a slight knock and went down as if in agony. This is what footballers are encouraged to do in order to break up the play, the opposition’s rhythm and to run the clock down. We may be doing him a disservice, there may have been a genuine injury, but face it, we’ve all seen players doing it up and down the land. It’s become part of the tactical handbook. On this occasion, it might just be that Mourinho’s tactics were coming back to bite him an he didn’t like it.
If managers stopped encouraging players to go down so easily, if they stopped encouraging time wasting tactics, then it would be much, much easier for all of us, medics included, to work out whether or not a player really was injured an in need of the physio or not. As it is, it’s a guessing game for all of us.