Football

Hazard: It’s hard to play well if you only get the ball three times

Eden Hazard appeared to take a dig at his manager's tactics after Chelsea's 1-0 loss to Manchester City yesterday morning (Singapore time), saying "we didn't play to our strengths".

Antonio Conte set up his English Premier League champions to stifle the champions-elect, with Hazard playing out-of-position as a striker.

The Belgian playmaker seemed unhappy with his positional deployment, saying: "I wouldn't have got a touch even if we played for three hours...

"For me personally, it's hard to play well if you only get the ball three times.

"But, when we got the ball, we had to use it better - we made the wrong choices.

"I was trying to jump, but it's not easy to win duels against Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte.

"We didn't play to our strengths today.

"If (Alvaro) Morata or (Olivier) Giroud played, it would have been easier to play with long balls. I did my best.

"Conte put me up front, I tried to do my maximum, but I don't think we played a good match."

Substitute Giroud was more diplomatic when asked if his team could have been more adventurous, saying: "It is a good question.

"The coach made his tactics. We tried to respect it."

EPL pundits, however, accorded Conte no such respect, slamming his tactics.

Jamie Redknapp called it a "crime against football", Gary Neville described Chelsea's players as "mannequins" in a match he found "painful to watch", Ruud Gullit called the Blues' approach "terrible to watch" and said they "deserved" the defeat, and Graeme Souness said the match was a case of "men against boys".

Conte railed back, calling the pundits "stupid".

He said: "In this moment you have to accept every criticism.

"I'm not so stupid to play open against City and lose three or four to nil.

"If I remember well, a few days ago, when Arsenal played against them, their effort was criticised because they conceded three goals in 30 minutes.

"The pundits have to use their heads to speak about tactics because you need knowledge to speak about them, and not to speak about them in a stupid way."

In the sea of criticism, Conte did find a supporter in Vinnie Jones, the former captain of Wimbledon - a side who were famed for their brutish style.

The former Wales midfielder told talkSPORT: "It's a fortress at Manchester City, the way they are playing - they are invincible at the moment.

"You get five at the back, five in front of them and try and nick something.

"It was brutal to watch - I will say that - but if Chelsea had gone and nicked the draw and won a point, I think it would be a different discussion today."

Football