Tuesday 25 September 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Precious players need a harsh dose of reality

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard substituted himself during manager Jose Mourinho final game on charge of the reigning Premier League champions Photo:Reuters
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard substituted himself during manager Jose Mourinho final game on charge of the reigning Premier League champions Photo:Reuters

There are a lot of precious Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and City footballers who need a harsh dose of reality after an extraordinary week in the Premier League.

They need to take a long look at Leicester City and examine their conscience about their own level of dedication and commitment to their craft.

I'm never one for singling out players for a public hammering but I had to sympathise with Jose Mourinho in that context.

He handled almost every part of the last two or three months badly and his sacking was inevitable when the results dried up.

He stepped over the line too often but the fact remains that the man who won the title last April has been sacked less than five months into the season.

They say he lost the dressing room and it certainly looks like that but I think the players lost their way too and are far from blameless.


Mourinho made an important point a few weeks back when he described how he gave specific instructions to his team about countering Leicester's goal threat and yet they scored twice down the channel he had highlighted.

What he was saying is that professional players of their quality should be able to absorb and act on detailed analysis like that, the same work every manager does.

Louis van Gaal is the next on the chopping block and again, I would take a close look at his squad and ask a simple question. Are Man Utd fans getting value for the huge money being paid in salaries?

Apparently, they don't like the Dutchman's training regime or videos before bedtime.

Manuel Pellegrini is coping with the most inconsistent and petulant squad of the lot, world class players who seem unable to string a series of results together and collapsed completely last season while they were defending their title win.

Yaya Touré was miffed because he didn't get a birthday card.

Brendan Rodgers lost his job because his squad had a brittleness under pressure and they were afraid to play at Anfield. Now Jurgen Klopp is discovering that all for himself.

Liverpool have shown in the last three games that their maddening and inexplicable soft centre is still very much there and that there is only so much Klopp can do with his Pied-piper personality.

Klopp has the same record after eight games as Rodgers had when he was sacked eight games in and against Watford, I saw the same fear in the players that I saw in the first few months of the season. They were definitely afraid of Watford, afraid of the fight.

When I was at Anfield, we could fight a team if we had to. If the opposition wanted to play, we would play but if they wanted a physical contest, we would give it to them.

Teams like Watford, Crystal Palace and above all, Leicester, show the same willingness to roll their sleeves up and work for their pay.

It is fantastic to watch the Leicester players about their work. They run, they chase, they hound and harry and in an eye blink, Mahrez or Vardy turn on the skill or the after-burners and defences fold.

I see the same all the way down through the Premier League. I see it in Bournemouth, Norwich and West Brom but I see very little of it in the supposedly elite group.

I'm not saying that managers don't own the responsibility for this, of course they do, but players must have their own standards which should never drop, regardless of the circumstances.

The club is paying the wages, not the manager.

This is all about a commitment to hard work in a common goal and these mostly small clubs are a lesson for pampered and privileged players at Chelsea who let their fans down.

A lot of Chelsea supporters seem to agree and voiced their displeasure at Stamford Bridge on Saturday when the same lads who could hardly kick a ball out of their way a few weeks ago were suddenly able to play and win against Sunderland.

I'm sure the men who didn't stand up for Mourinho had their reasons, maybe even good ones.

Above all else they owe their loyalty to the shirt but they let fans down when they chose to turn their backs on the manager.

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