In his press conference this afternoon, Maurizio Sarri had positive news to report on Eden Hazard’s fitness, and the boss also assessed our start to the campaign and discussed the form of two of our midfielders.
Sarri was speaking to the assembled journalists at Cobham ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Crystal Palace, and the first thing they wanted to know was whether Hazard would play…
‘I don’t know,’ Sarri responded.
‘Yesterday Eden had a large part of the training with the team. Maybe he will not be ready to play for 90 minutes at the moment, because it was the first training in the last two weeks, but probably he will be able to play for 40, 45 minutes. I will speak to him before deciding whether he starts. For us it’s important.’
Sarri was nominated for the Manager of the Month award again today, and against Palace he could extend his unbeaten start to life in the Premier League to 11 matches. It would be a joint record.
‘I don’t want to think about the record now. We have to think only about the match and gaining points. The record is only a consequence of the match. I have to send to my players the message that only this match is important.’
Sarri was asked if he could ever have imagined it would go so well so quickly
‘No. In every experience I have done before, I was in trouble in the first two months! I thought it would be the same here. Here I was lucky, because the players were able to win without a very good level of tactical organisation.’
He pointed out there is still plenty of work to do, particularly at the back
‘In the last match I have to say Derby played a very good match. We played well in the offensive phase, but a lot of mistakes in the defensive phase. It’s clear we need to improve.
‘I am used to having problems like this in the first months. In Burnley I saw a very good performance in the defensive phase. Three days after I saw a lot of mistakes. It means we are a not a continuously solid team at the moment. It’s dangerous.’
Sarri revealed he studied Ross Barkley’s prior performances when he took over in the summer
‘In the first week, I saw some matches of Chelsea and some matches of Everton, because I wanted to see him on the pitch. He has great technical quality, he has great quality from a physical point of view - he is improving since his injury last season - and he has improved from the tactical point of view.
‘He is becoming a very, very important player for us, and not only us, for the English people too.’
Sarri spoke about Ruben Loftus-Cheek, another midfielder who has been prominent recently
‘He has improved, but he needs to improve more from a tactical point of view. Physically he has great characteristics. He is fast, solid and has great impact. Technically he is very good. If he wants to play like a midfielder, he has to improve in the defensive phase, but his potential is great.’