Big Phil remains defiant at Chelsea
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 tonight.
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 tonight’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.”