Maurizio Sarri absolutely lays into Chelsea players after defeat to Arsenal
"It appears this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate"
Maurizio Sarri didn't mince his words after Saturday evening's 2-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The Chelsea manager, who has been in charge since the start of the season after joining the Blues from Napoli, openly criticised the mentality and desire of his players in a manner reminiscent of José Mourinho's more explosive press conference during his time at Man United.
Opting to speak through his Italian translator because he didn't want to make a mistake in his English, Sarri proceeded to throw his players under the proverbial bus before then shifting over them and backing into reverse over their dismantled, lifeless bodies for good measure.
After the match the Italian told the media: "I’m extremely angry, very angry indeed. This defeat was due to our mentality. I can’t accept it. We had a similar issue against Tottenham in the league. It appears this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate."
"From a technical point of view both teams were on the same sort of level, but they had a higher level of determination in both penalty areas, so tactics don’t come into it. I can’t possibly say I am not partly responsible for the defeat. We have to share it."
"This is not a team that is going to be well known for its battling qualities, but we need to become a team that is capable of adapting, possibly suffering for 10 or 15 minutes, and then playing our own football. Today we didn’t play our own football."
As a manager, completely removing tactics as a factor in a defeat seems cowardly, especially as Sarri's tactics going into the game puzzled many observers. Playing Eden Hazard as a false nine, for instance, was completely nullified by opposing coach Unai Emery's midfield diamond, which allowed Arsenal to effortlessly clog up the central spaces that the Belgian was being asked to operate in. Beyond that, waiting until the 80th minute to bring on Callum Hudson-Odoi made little sense when it was evident Chelsea's attack was lacking in flair and imagination.
Perhaps most damning is the continued ineffectiveness of deep-lying midfielder Jorginho who, whilst meticulous in retaining possession, has yet to make any substantial contribution to the team's play in the final third. He allows Chelsea - and Maurizio Sarri - to play a certain way, but is that what is best for the club with their current squad of players? Most would agree that taking N'Golo Kante away from the holding role he fills like a monstrous, telepathic octopus is something of a crime against football anyway. When Jorginho is failing to control and in some cases even impact games, it is inexcusable.
Sarri is nothing if not a remarkably idiosyncratic manager and that was part of the reason he was hugely successful in cementing Napoli as one of the best, and most aesthetically pleasing teams in Italy and Europe. But he wasn't without criticism, however, as fans were left bemused by failure to adequately rotate a heavily favoured Starting XI , perhaps out of a lack of trust of the rest of the squad. It meant that the players who were playing every minute, either through accumulated fatigue or a lack of competition for their place, were faded at crucial points during the season when silverware seemed within reach.
Although it is early, it appears that very same problem is starting to creep into Chelsea's performances after a blistering start that saw the club keep pace with the Premier League's title challengers. As much as his players were outfought by a tenacious Gunners display on Saturday, he must know that, deep down, his refusal to tinker and adapt means that he himself is perhaps more at fault.
The contrasting displays of the two holding midfielders, Lucas Torreira and Jorginho, were emblematic of their teams on the night. The former all rugged dynamism, the latter as hopelessly predictable as his manager's team sheets. Should Sarri want to inject some motivation and determination into his side, he would do worse than return N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard to the positions in which they are the league's best and give more chances to the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi whilst they are still there, let alone eager to impress.