How do you reflect on that game? It looked like a chastening experience in the first half hour or so.
Yeah, I think that’s a good expression, a chastening experience. I think we did our best to bring that about because the way we approached that first half hour in terms of the way we were playing, our inability to get close enough to our opponents, to defend well enough in and around our own box… The chances we were taking, apart from anything else! Losing the ball very close to our own box, giving them the opportunity to profit from their very good pressurising. Of course the quality of players that they have, when you are 3-0 down at half-time, which we were deservedly, you are definitely staring down the barrel of a gun. Fortunately we didn’t capitulate, fortunately we didn’t lose heavier than by four goals to one. But it was a very bad defeat, albeit against a very good team. But it’s our job to play against very good teams and to make life as difficult as we possibly can, and I don’t think we did that today.
It does happen from time to time, against a top six side when they better you in all departments. Was this one of those days?
Yeah, possibly, but I don’t like to accept that. I think that’s too easy. We’re in the same league. We need points and they need points. Sometimes we have to do what we think is absolutely necessary to get those points. We have to accept with all humility that we can’t go toe to toe and play exactly the way they play because they’ve got very different players. But I still think we have enough self respect and enough belief in ourselves to do more than we did today. Because I think that the way we approached the first half, the way we played in the first half was nowhere near good enough and that’s obviously something which we must all take responsibility for.
With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you think you could have done differently today?
Nothing that I would particularly want to discuss publicly, I think. It would obviously be to do with team selection. Because you make a team selection in good faith, and it doesn’t always work out for you. I don’t think what cost us the game the team was something that we as the management and coaching staff had requested from the players. It was something that came about perhaps, you could argue, because Chelsea were so good in that period of time. They caused us so many problems. But I don’t think I have an answer to your question which would be a simple one – ‘if only we’d done this or we’d done that’. I think we could have done quite a lot of things to make life easier for ourselves and made life a bit more difficult for them. And wouldn’t have played quite as much into their hands as the way we did play into their hands, at least, during large periods of the first half. Second half was perhaps a lot more like what we were wanting and expecting. But it’s a bit late to bring about when you’re losing 3-0 because you’ve already lost the game.
It’s two weeks without a game now until Leicester. Are you expecting that Southampton game to take place in the next two weeks or will it be more towards the end of the season?
I don’t know, we’ve had no communication at all from the Premier League with regard to when that game will be played. So I really don’t know what the thoughts are going to be there. If they want to play that game within those two weeks, then we’d be more than happy to do so.
Jesurun Rak-Sakyi was on the bench today. What do you think he will have learned from the experience?
Yeah, not a good day to have brought him in, I don’t think. I don’t know what he would have learned. I think he might be a little bit shocked by a lot of things that he saw during the course of the game, at half-time and afterwards, so I’m not sure it was a great day to bring him in if I’m to be perfectly honest. But it’s good that he’s there, because he’s there on merit. He’s done so well in the training sessions. So when there was a position vacant, if you like, among the 20 players we can nominate for the game, I think it was 100% right to nominate him. But I don’t honestly know what I could say he’s learned from it, you’d have to ask him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s an honest man, if his answer was negative.
Not the performance you wanted, but another goal for Christian Benteke. What’s changed for him this season?
Well, I think he’s doing well. He’s working certainly hard, trying to do the things that we’re preaching and we’re asking him to do and it’s very good that he’s starting to score some goals. Because his goalscoring in the last few months has not been on a regular basis. He’s not a prolific goalscorer, but that’s because the team aren’t prolific goalscorers. I certainly can’t fault him and his contribution. It was nice to see him score a goal and at least give us some glimmer of hope that we could claw our way back into the game, albeit it was a minor glimmer because of the way we played in the first half, which virtually made sure that Chelsea would go away with all three points. It was a question of how big the margin would be.