Player of the year Eden Hazard will remain Chelsea’s first-choice penalty taker despite a midweek miss more suited to the Rugby World Cup, manager Jose Mourinho said ahead of Saturday’s Premier League derby with Arsenal.
Hazard skied an early spot-kick high over the bar in the 4-0 Champions League win over Maccabi Tel Aviv and when his team were awarded a second penalty later, fellow midfielder Oscar was entrusted with it and scored.
But at Friday’s pre-match news conference Mourinho offered a vote of confidence to the Belgian, who has often seemed short of that quality this season.
“He’s still the penalty taker,” the manager said. “Maybe he had an agreement with a sponsor to promote the Rugby World Cup!
“He’s the best penalty taker in this country. He’s the best player in England. And he will be again.”
Declining to criticise any individual for Chelsea’s poor start to their title defence, and insisting he had “no problem” with any of them, Mourinho did admit that players’ confidence could easily be affected by recent league results.
“When you lose matches, you are affected,” he said.
“You lose confidence. You don’t want the ball. You are afraid to shoot. Unless you are so strong that you cope with it.
“So to taste victory again is important.”
To do that Chelsea must do what proved too much for countless opponents over the last 10 years — get the ball past goalkeeper Petr Cech.
He returns to Stamford Bridge on Saturday for the first time since joining Arsenal in the recent transfer window, having already thwarted his former club once by keeping a clean sheet in their rivals’ 1-0 Community Shield victory at Wembley last month.
“Any Chelsea fan who thought he would open the goal and let us win, I think they understood in the Shield that he’s there to win,” Mourinho said.
“He’s Arsenal’s goalkeeper until the game ends.
“After the game if he wants to come to our dressing-room, the door is open.”
The Portuguese added that Brazilian midfielder Willian, who scored the opening goal against Maccabi, will miss the game, although Oscar, Pedro and Radamel Falcao have not been ruled out despite knocks.