Costa lucky not to be dropped sooner, says Mourinho
Striker heads to team bus after touchline strop Chelsea like a ‘small team’, claims Pochettino
Diego Costa made little attempt to hide his displeasure after being dropped and left on the substitutes’ bench by Jose Mourinho at White Hart Lane yesterday.
Mourinho admitted that Costa was unhappy about being left out of his starting line-up but the manager said he was lucky not to have been dropped previously this season. He has scored only four goals since August and seven in 10 months.
The Spain striker did not join in the pre-match warm-up with his team-mates and performed a halfhearted touchline routine when asked to get ready during the match. On his return to the bench he tossed his bib over his shoulder in the direction of Mourinho, narrowly missing the manager.
Rather than warm down with some of the other Chelsea substitutes at the end of the game, Costa was through the changing room and on to the team bus within 15 minutes of the final whistle.
He sat on the bus on his own for around 30 minutes and had to wait for more than an hour for all of the Chelsea players to shower, change and join him.
Even though Mourinho was without the injured Radamel Falcao and Loïc Rémy, whose wife gave birth on Saturday, he still opted to leave Costa on the bench and deploy Eden Hazard as a makeshift striker.
The decision came just five days after Mourinho had insisted that he had patched up an on-pitch bust-up with Costa during the Champions League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv with “kisses and cuddles”.
The Spain international is the latest high-profile Chelsea player to be dropped by Mourinho, following the captain John Terry, Hazard, Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic.
“Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be on the bench,” Mourinho said. “Everyone else has been – the captain, Ivanovic, Cahill, the vice-captain of England, Fabregas, Pedro, Hazard, player of the season, Oscar. Everyone was on the bench.
“Diego was privileged because I kept him in the team for all these matches. Today we thought the best strategy was this one. We are happy with the decision and the players. If we had won 1-0, our performance would have been considered tremendous. You will still say it was good.
“Physically, he [Costa] is fine. No problems. He is working well every day. His mood is positive. He’s always a positive guy in the team.
“I was not expecting to have a player on the bench jumping and singing because he is not playing, unless you’re a kid who has a chance to go on the bench. But for a top player, they’re not happy. His behaviour was normal. He was ready to play when he went to warm up. When I decided not to play him, he went. And probably he is eating while waiting for us on the bus.”
Asked about Costa throwing his bib, which amused his fellow substitutes Papy Djilobodji and John Obi Mikel, Mourinho said: “If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problem.”
Despite the fact that Chelsea failed to score with Hazard – who forced Hugo Lloris to make a superb save from an angled volley – up front, Mourinho decided against throwing Costa on in search of a goal. As The Daily Telegraph reported last week, Chelsea are considering whether to sign a striker in January, with increasing concerns at the club about Costa’s form and mental state.
“I was looking for a winner, but without him,” Mourinho said. “I was tempted not to change one player. I was looking at the team on the pitch to give me a winner.
“Willian was in a difficult situation, though, and asked for a change, and the last change for Pedro was a bit more of the same. But I was tempted not to touch the team.
“We had, I think, two or three big chances and lots of half-chances, those which you can’t see because we don’t arrive in front of goal – we missed passes or decisions, had spaces to attack and were almost there, but it didn’t come off.
“My temptation was not to make a single change. I think if we deserve credit at keeping the clean sheet – as we do – then Spurs deserve even more credit for the clean sheet because we were the more dangerous team. Lloris was the goalkeeper with more work and the save of the game [from Hazard], and we created the better chances.”
Terry missed yesterday’s game with an ankle injury, but Mourinho revealed that both the Chelsea captain and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois should be fit to face Bournemouth on Saturday.
Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham head coach, described his squad as “heroes” after eight of the players who started against Qarabag and arrived back in England only at 4.30am on Friday also started against Chelsea.
Pochettino also claimed that it was Chelsea who could be seen as the “small team” for trying to hit Spurs on the break.
“We deserved more than we got, so I was disappointed, but it’s true that I’m proud of the players. For me they’re big heroes,” Pochettino, whose team are now unbeaten in 13 Premier League games, said.
“You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team and Tottenham can win every game we play. It’s very difficult, though, not easy. We are the youngest team in the Premier League and the maturity we showed today we have shown in different games.”
Pochettino added: “It’s a good thing that, maybe, we are a bigger club than Chelsea or that we deserve more. We showed good performances in the last few games, and I’m happy, but we have to keep working hard.”
Lone raider: Eden Hazard was played in the striking role ahead of Diego Costa at White Hart Lane