“Eden Hazard was fouled NINE times in Chelsea draw at PSG… Laurent Blanc’s men should be ashamed of themselves” screamed the Daily Mail
“Mourinho calls for cards to halt Hazard fouls” blasts ESPN.uk
“Yes but both Chelsea and PSG committed 20 fouls each and Mourinho has some gall demanding cards for fouls on creative players.” pined 7amkickoff
It was a welcome relief for Chelsea fans this morning as they woke up to the news that their player, Eden Hazard, has been fouled a record number of times both in the Premier League and in the Champions League. And that he was fouled nine times in their match against PSG on Tuesday. Most of the major shock-top newspapers have run with the story and are supporting Chelsea and their manager, Jose Mourinho’s, campaign “Justice for the 9 fouls”.
Chelsea fans have been under pressure since Tuesday when their supporters were filmed shouting racist abuse at a black man in Paris prior to their match against PSG. After they shoved the black man and refused his entry onto the train, they then started singing that they are Chelsea, they are racist, and they are proud of it. The man who was abused is pressing charges and police in the UK and France are actively pursuing a case against the fans in that railway car.
Also swept under the rug is the fact that Chelsea were abject in the match against PSG, managing just one shot on goal in 90 minutes as they elected to park the bus rather than try to attack PSG and win the match outright.Chelsea were so poor in this match that their goal was scored when a center back crossed the ball to another center back who flicked on for the fullback to score. After they scored the go-ahead goal, Chelsea sat back and defended. When they did try to get the ball forward, it was Hazard who was the main outlet.
PSG spent the entire match attacking Chelsea and when they did lose the ball often tackled the one Chelsea outlet, Hazard, to win the ball back. It is no surprise that Hazard was the most fouled player on either team, he was Chelsea’s lone outlet. I’m sure if Chelsea had taken a more balanced approach to counter attacking Hazard might have had a teammate to pass the ball to, instead he was often left to go it alone and the result was that he was involved in a lot of duels.
In fact, the stats show that both teams committed the exact same number of fouls, 20, and Chelsea’s two main central midfielders, Matic and Fabregas, combined to commit 9 fouls of their own. PSG’s Verratti has been singled out by Mourinho because he committed 5 fouls and most of them were against Hazard, but Chelsea’s opposite central midfielder, Nemaja Matic, also committed 5 fouls.
The stats show that yes Hazard was fouled 9 times but that both Chelsea and PSG fought equally hard and fouled each other an equal amount. As a Liverpool fan who was watching the game with me put it, “both teams were fouling too much.”
The biggest irony, however, is that Chelsea under Jose Mourinho have serially targeted opposition players who, like Hazard, play with the ball at their feet. These players who like to dribble, players like Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal’s Abou Diaby, and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, are routinely targeted by Chelsea midfielders not only for the same rotational fouling that Hazard suffered against PSG, but for absurd and over the top lunges.
And here is Chelsea’s Michael Essien destroying Abou Diaby’s ankle. Another foul that didn’t receive a red card or command a peep out of the Chelsea manager.
What’s most incredible, however, is how quickly the British press lapped up Mourinho’s milk and uncritically published his remarks about the PSG match. Every single one of Jose Mourinho’s teams have been criticized for their brutality and ugliness. He was essentially fired from Real Madrid, he last job prior to returning to Chelsea, because he had turned them into the most expensively assembled Crazy Gang in the history of the sport and the players revolted against him. It was clear that the players were right, since they went on to win the Champions League playing a much more aesthetically pleasing brand of football.
In the end, this is just Mourinho doing what Mourinho does: redirecting the press away from a poor team performance, moaning ironically about how his team are cheated, and adding to the fan’s feelings that Chelsea are persecuted. The only wonder is why the British press publish this stuff uncritically.
Questions to ponder: dribblers like Hazard, Wilshere, Diaby, and Sanchez are often fouled because they tend to have the ball at feet more than any other player. Is this fouling “just part of the game”? Is this something that “needs to be stamped out” of the game? Consider the NBA and their movement in the early 90s toward a more dribble-happy sport. They changed the rules so that players could no longer put hands on the opponent when playing face to face. This encouraged dribblers and turned the NBA into a sport where one player would often be seen standing at the top of the key dribbling and trying to break down the opposition defense. Do we want football to go more in that direction? More leeway for dribblers? Or do we want to encourage teams to play a more team oriented sport, with passing rather than one-v-one dribble duels all the time. My feeling is that encouraging more dribbling will make the Mourinho tactic of parking the bus pay significantly higher dividends because you can sit back and hit the opposition with a dribbler, who is systematically protected by the referees.