After guiding his team to an outstanding victory in the Europa League final, Maurizio Sarri hailed his players’ bravery as well as the quality of their football in the decisive second half.
It had been a tight and tense first 45 minutes in Baku. Arsenal started the more threatening but Sarri’s side grew into proceedings and finished the stronger.
Coming out strongly after the interval has not always been our forte this season, but tonight in Baku we were electric when play restarted, blitzing Arsenal with three goals in 16 minutes. The boss revealed what he had told his players.
‘My feeling at the end of the first half was that the match was very difficult,’ Sarri said.
‘It was our 64th match of the season and it was hot on the pitch, very difficult to play physically. My feeling from the bench was that we were trying to manage the result. At half-time I asked my players to play with more courage, even if it meant risking to lose.
‘I wanted my team to move the ball better, and the players did it very well in the second half. We played very good football against a very difficult opponent, who are dangerous in the offensive phase and from counter-attacks. We played very good football and the match was good also for the fans I think.’
Sarri expressed his own emotions after winning the first major trophy of his career, but was keen to focus on the collective
‘I am very happy, but the front of the shirt is very important - the trophy is very important for the club.
‘The back of the shirt, the names of the players and the coach, is less important. Of course the trophy is very important for us and for me. Our feeling was we deserved to win. After we went in trouble in January and February, we reacted.
‘At the end we got the Champions League through the Premier League, which is not easy. We played a final in the League Cup and we qualified after beating the Champions League finalists Liverpool and Tottenham, and we lost by penalties the final against Man City.
‘In the Europa League we played 15 matches, we won 12 and drew three, so I think we deserve to win the Europa League.
‘I am very happy with my players, as I said yesterday. Something changed at the beginning of February. We lost 6-0 in Manchester against City but we started something different, so our feeling is we deserved to win.’
Sarri commented on two-goal Eden Hazard’s future
‘As you know Hazard is a wonderful player, but you have to spend two or three months to understand him as a man. When you are able to understand him as a man, he is a wonderful man.
‘I knew Eden wanted to leave, but as I have said in every press conference, I wanted to respect his decision.’
On his own future, Sarri said the following
‘I have to speak to my club. The season finished one hour ago so tomorrow I will speak to the club, like every club at the end of the season. We need to know what the club can do for me, what I can do better for the club. In a couple of days we will decide, but I have a contract so at the moment we are talking about nothing.
‘I am lucky because I am at Chelsea, one of the best clubs in the best championship in the world. At the moment I am happy, but of course I want to know if the club is happy and if we can improve. I think I deserve to stay but it’s only my opinion.’