Maurizio Sarri analyses Chelsea’s defeat at Arsenal, highlighting what was wrong with his team and what has to be changed…
Maurizio Sarri compared Saturday evening’s defeat against Arsenal to the setback we had suffered in another away derby against a north London side, November’s league game against Tottenham.
That match finished 3-1 to our opponents. Against the Gunners the result was 2-0 with Chelsea rarely looking like pulling a goal back. The closest we came was a Marcos Alonso header against the woodwork from a set-piece.
Choosing to speak in Italian in his post-match media conference so as to make sure he sent an accurate message to his players, Sarri was clear what the main problem was with the performance – attitude and a lack of determination…
‘I am extremely angry,’ he said. ‘Very angry indeed because this defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else, our mental approach because we played against a team that was far more determined mentally than we were and this is something I can’t accept.
‘We had a similar issue in the league game at Tottenham, we spoke a great deal about that particular loss and our approach at the time. I thought we had managed to overcome this issue but it seems we have the issue with having a sufficient amount of determination, being mentally solid, so I am not happy because I prefer to come into the press conference and to speak to the players and talk about tactics and why we lost from a tactical and strategy point of view, but the fact of the matter is it appears this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate.’
‘When you see this kind of game when one team is more determined than the other, we can’t really talk about tactics,’ he added.
‘From a technical point of view I think the teams are pretty much on the same level but when Arsenal are more determined than us, the tactics don’t even come into it. Their high level of determination was pretty obvious throughout the game, particularly in both penalty areas. They were clinical when they scored their goals and in defence we stood off and we were not as determined, we were not strong enough, particularly the first goal we conceded.
‘Don’t get me wrong, we could have lost that game anyway but we could have lost it for tactical reasons and technical reasons, but we lost it because of our determination. Of course I couldn’t possibly say I am not responsible as well at least in part for the mental approach. That is something that we have to share.’
Sarri was asked if and how the team’s mentality can be changed?
‘It is a difficult question to answer, it seems to me that as a group of players they are not particularly aggressive from a mental point of view, they don’t have that ferocity in their mentality and that is down to the type of players they are, their characteristics, and it is something that is difficult to change. It could take quite a long time but it could be changed by a new player coming in or perhaps by one of the old heads in the team assuming responsibility and driving the team forward.’
And is changing the mentality or the make-up of the team a job he wants to see through?
‘Absolutely. I am aware this is a team that is never going to be well-known for its battling and fighting qualities because those are not the characteristic that we are going to have, but what we need to become is a team that is capable of adapting, so be a team that is capable of suffering for 10 or 15 minutes in a game but then playing our own football.
‘For example our defending ended up with us running backwards rather than coming and pressing high up the pitch; we are a team that should be playing one or two touches whereas instead at times we were taking seven or eight touches and this is something we don’t want to happen, we want to be playing our own football and this something we are going to have to try to change.’