Scolari: 'I have the players' backing'

Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insists he has the backing of his players ahead of what he is viewing as their biggest game of the season - against Southend in the FA Cup tomorrow.

The third-round replay against the League One side should be a formality for the multi-million pound Chelsea stars but the Blues are in the midst of their biggest crisis since the departure of Jose Mourinho 16 months ago.

A glut of defensive howlers in their last five games has undermined Chelsea's title aspirations and they go to Roots Hall on the back of a 3-0 drubbing by rivals Manchester United amid allegations the squad is either too old, in disarray or simply uninterested.

But Scolari, who labelled tomorrow's crucial cup tie as the "game of the year" for both clubs, is adamant he has the continued support of his squad.

"I think I have the squad behind me," declared a robust Scolari. "We are all in the same boat. If Chelsea lose a game it is not only Scolari, it is the Chelsea team.

"There is not a problem with the spirit. It is a problem of mistakes not spirit.

"It is the game of the year for Southend and it is the same for us. We need to think the same as them.

"But if our spirit is not the same as Southend's, it will be difficult to win. If we have the same spirit and are thinking about the FA Cup, we have more chance than them. We have very good players who are technically better, but we need to prove it on the pitch."

One of the repercussions of their United mauling on Sunday has been Scolari's decision to ditch man-to-man marking and return to a zonal system.

It is not a question of his squad being too old, he says, it is all about stamping out basic errors.

"What has happened is a lesson for us," said Scolari. "It is a problem because we give chances for all teams to score goals from set plays.

"What has happened in the last three or four games has not been good.

"We have done well in 25 games and not well in five. I need to change something. I have changed the system to zonal and not man-to-man.

"The responsibility now is for the group and not one man. But if we talk about the mistakes all the time, maybe we make more mistakes.

"Mentally it is a problem. We lost many points from set-plays and mistakes. Now is the time to talk with the players about what is happening.

"All the players know what I want from set plays. Sometimes mistakes happen. But my team, in the last four games, we have conceded five goals. It is more my mistake than the players' because it is my system.

"I tried to do zonal marking but changed it back to man-to-man sometimes, now we change the system again.

"I am responsible for us conceding the last two goals against United because I tried to change the result in the second half. I opened the midfield. I was wrong but this is my style."

Scolari's defensive problems are not his only concern however. Nicolas Anelka, often described as the 'incredible sulk' during his career, is understood to have voiced his latest displeasure at being left out of the starting line-up since Boxing Day.

Anelka smashed 16 goals this season during Didier Drogba's enforced absence through injury, but he has been out in the cold since the Ivorian's return.

The France striker, who last started for Chelsea in the win over West Brom, was alleged to have rowed with Scolari after being asked to play on the left flank - a position he hated under previous manager Avram Grant.

But Scolari rejected the accusations of a bust-up with his top scorer and insisted it was his job as coach to choose the players for the job, irrespective of reputations or egos.

"There has been no row with me," said Scolari. "It is my choice sometimes - this or that player.

"I have 24 good players but only two centre-forwards. One is playing and not the other.

"Everybody thinks it is easy to play two strikers because they are good. But I try to prove to the people and for me and Chelsea, that is difficult.

"When one player is outside, as was Didier Drogba, he needs to play two, three or four games, and in that time I need to look at what's happened. Afterwards I have to decide. It is my option."

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before