Maurizio Sarri discusses the importance of staying focused for 90 minutes with the last Wolves match in mind and reveals further rotation to come…
This weekend’s meeting with Wolves brings to mind the reverse fixture at Molineux back in December, which Chelsea dominated and led before conceding twice in four second-half minutes to leave empty-handed.
Maurizio Sarri’s first memory of that cold night in the Black Country is reflective of how he has felt after many of our lower points this season: specifically that poor passages of play, however brief, have cost us.
That was the case in the early exchanges at Tottenham, Arsenal and Man City in the league, and after the break against Wolves.
‘I remember very well that after Wolves scored to make it 1-1 we stopped playing,’ Sarri said.
‘We went into trouble and started again only in the last 10 matches. I will study very well that match because we need to arrive to this match with the right level of preparation and the right level of mentality.
‘If you stop playing you can lose against any team. If you stop playing against Manchester City you can lose 6-0. Unfortunately in Wolverhampton we stopped after 50, 55 minutes for 20 minutes. It was enough to lose the game.
‘When I speak about us needing to improve our mentality and our consistency, I am speaking about these problems.
‘In the last five matches we won four and drew against Manchester City,’ Sarri pointed out, before issuing a warning.
‘In five matches we conceded only one goal. Now we are improving in consistency, we are improving in defensive solidity, but we have to be careful. In the past we had a long period of results, and then suddenly two weeks of disaster. So we have to be careful.’
Maintaining levels of consistency in mind and body has been made harder by the frequency with which we have been in action this season. Tomorrow’s game is our ninth in 28 days.
‘Of course in this moment it’s very difficult to arrive to every match with the same level of determination, mentally and physically at 100 per cent, but for the next match we can change six or seven players.
‘On Thursday we changed six or seven players. Jorginho played only 50 minutes, Kante only 40 minutes, Barkley 60, no more. These three players will be able to play the next match. Of course in this moment it’s a problem for every English team involved in European competition.’
Another midfielder available to Sarri is Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who came off the bench for the last half-hour of Thursday night’s victory over Dynamo Kiev and set up fellow Academy graduate Callum Hudson-Odoi for our third goal of a very successful evening.
Loftus-Cheek has 26 appearances to his name this season and has netted six goals, the last of which was against Wolves in December. A back problem has affected his involvement from the start in 2019, but Sarri has positive news on the 23-year-old’s fitness.
‘In the last two or three matches it’s been better. He has been training with continuity in the last two or three weeks. His physical condition is not at the top at the moment to play for 90 minutes, and so on Thursday he wasn’t in the starting XI only for this reason.
‘I wanted Jorginho on the pitch only for 50, 55 minutes. I wanted Kante only for 35, 40 minutes, and so I was not able to choose him. At the moment he is not able to play for 90 minutes but he has improved his physical condition.
‘His back is getting better and better, and in two or three weeks he will be able to play for 90 minutes.’