Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho rejected suggestions he humiliated Nemanja Matic by bringing off the substitute when he had only been on for 27 minutes against Southampton.
The Blues lost 3-1 in a stunning Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge – the first time they have conceded three goals in a home league game under Mourinho in a result that leaves them with just eight points from as many games.
Matic had come on for Ramires at half-time with the score at 1-1, but was taken off for Loic Remy immediately after Graziano Pelle’s fine finish had given the Saints a two-goal cushion.
Mourinho stressed it was never his intention to humiliate the Serbian midfielder and attempted to explain why he chose to replace him and not the likes of Cesc Fabregas or Oscar, who had been on since the start, although he did acknowledge the player’s form has been below-par.
“It was not humiliating,” said the Portuguese manager. “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 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 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.”
Fabregas is another player Mourinho feels has been out of form during his club’s poor start to 2015-16, but the manager hailed the ex-Barcelona midfielder’s strong character during troubled times.
He continued: “You feel the pressure. Some players are different than others and have a bigger personality.
“You can be critical of Fabregas because he is not playing especially well, I know that, but he never loses the confidence to try things, which for me is fundamental.
“I prefer a player that is not playing well but has confidence to try and is not influenced by the pressure or by some reaction from the crowd. I need the strong personality.”
Mourinho also hinted that John Terry was a player who had the right mindset as his club try to turn their troubled run of results around, even though the defender made a costly mistake for Sadio Mane’s goal – which was Southampton’s second of the match – on his return to the starting line-up.
“Another example is the player that made the mistake for the second goal,” added the 52-year-old.
“He knows that he made the mistake and knows the team was punished by that, but he is another one that is strong enough to cope with it.”