Eden Hazard’s defensive trial shows the artists must also play like artisans

Coaches often have to accept a trade-off with skilful players. When in possession they can open up opponents with abilities other players do not possess, such as delivering a defence-splitting pass or dribbling past defenders. But when the opposition has the ball they may fail to do the more prosaic aspects of the game.

Maybe they are lazy, maybe they do not see why a player of their class should do what coaches call “the dirty side of the game”, maybe their brains are wired differently, in particular the part that deals with concentration.

A coach has to make a judgement: do I play him for what he can do, or leave him out because of what he will not, or cannot do. In Juan Mata’s case Jose Mourinho dropped him, then sold him. In Eden Hazard’s case the Belgian, no doubt seeing the example made of Mata, knuckled down and started tracking back.

It does not come naturally. He does not always get his position right and, like many attacking players in defence, he reacts to danger rather than anticipates it. So it proved on Wednesday in the Champions League semi-final second-leg defeat to Atletico Madrid.

For Atletico’s first goal Hazard was in the right position but his body shape meant he was unable to watch both Tiago on the ball and Juanfran. So he did not see the latter start the run that Tiago picked out. He then assumed the ball would go out, unlike Juanfran who clipped it back for Adrian Lopez to score.

Maybe Hazard, who had not played since being injured against Paris Saint-Germain on 8 April, lost concentration as he was feeling the pace as half-time approached, though he still would have got away with it but for other factors such as John Terry’s slip.

Blame for the third goal, from a similar set-up, was also laid at his feet – although it might be more appropriate to praise Atletico’s quality.

“Big matches”, said Mourinho, “are often settled by small details.” He was talking about Thibaut Courtois’ save from Terry and the penalty conceded by Samuel Eto’o, which meant that instead of winning 2-1 after an hour Chelsea were 2-1 behind.

But Atletico’s first goal was more significant because Chelsea were leading, which meant the Spaniards had to make the running, enabling Chelsea to play their preferred counter-puncher’s game.

What did not help was that Hazard did not show his qualities going forward. He only influenced it negatively.

But isn’t blaming Hazard for the defeat like blaming bowlers because they do not score enough runs? When defenders score it is a bonus; when an attacker fails to do the defensive work it’s neglect. It didn’t used to be the case. Critics used to say of Johnny Haynes, England’s first £100-a-week player: “No wonder he’s always in space, he never marks anyone when we don’t have the ball”. That was a different age; now the artists have to be artisans too.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'