Jose Mourinho has told his Chelsea players to face their problems head on and not to hide like ostriches.
Chelsea will bid to improve on their miserable start to the season – four wins in 11 games in all competitions, including two in seven in the Premier League – against Southampton on Saturday.
Amid talk of a crisis and suggestions of rifts within the squad, Mourinho is defiant, and he became the second Premier League manager in under a year after former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson to make a reference to a certain flightless bird.
“There is an animal that puts its head in the ground… an ostrich,” Mourinho said.
“In the bad moments, you cannot do that and just wait for a better moment to come, or for the problems to be resolved by themselves.
“Or waiting for the moon to change and give you better vibrations. You make mistakes, you are in a bad moment, no ostrich (behaviour), (lift your) head up, face the problems, speak, work. For me, this is the way.”
Pearson was forced to apologise for calling a journalist an ostrich during a tetchy press conference in April.
Mourinho says players shirking responsibility would be a poor response, but he believes the 2-0 win over Arsenal showed that is not the case with his players.
“Sometimes, players are on the pitch and they are hidden,” he added.
“It’s the worst thing, when you don’t want to be there. You lose two or three matches, the next match you play at home and you don’t want to be there.
“I think we showed against Arsenal that we don’t have that profile. We came against Arsenal in a worse run than now, after (defeats to) Crystal Palace and Everton.
“I don’t think we’ll be in trouble not to have the desire and personality to play (against Southampton).”
Mourinho defended his methods after suggestions some players were unhappy with his criticism, insisting it is imperative to rebuke players in front of their team-mates.
“Of course (I criticise) in front of the other players, because I coach,” Mourinho said.
“When I criticise the mistake of my right-back and Ola Aina is present, it’s an education for him.
“When I criticise a mistake of Gary Cahill and John Terry is in the meeting, if he didn’t play he knows what I want.
“If I criticise Willian for his movement, Pedro is listening and learning.”
Even Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s standout performer last term, has not been immune, dropping to the substitutes’ bench for Tuesday night’s loss at Porto.
Mourinho had an explanation for Hazard’s sub-standard display in last Saturday’s draw at Newcastle – the Belgian had become a father for the third time the previous evening – and insists the forward remains the Premier League’s best.
“If we arrive in May and Eden Hazard doesn’t have a good period, we are in trouble and he is too because his season was very bad,” Mourinho added.
“He played very well against Arsenal. Against Newcastle he was all night without sleeping because his baby was born that night.
“He travelled on the morning of the game and wasn’t in the best condition. He’s in a period where he’s not at the top of his game, but he’s the best.”