Chelsea may have remained unbeaten on the season — 9 matches in a row in the Premier League and 12 in all competitions — but the warning signs of defensive and attacking frailties came home to roost in the second-half of Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Manchester United.
“Today, like against Arsenal, we have played against a very strong team. If you play against a strong team and make mistakes [they become] clear. Sometimes we’ve made the same mistakes, but of course other opponents [didn’t make it so] clear on the pitch.”
Not even Barkley’s 96th minute equalizer could paper over those cracks too well.
“Yes [I’m pleased with the team’s character], but they have to play my football with character.”
The Blues took the lead but were unable to build on it, missing several guilt-edged opportunities. United then scrambled home an equalizer before ripping Chelsea apart on the counter. The last-minute goal was a boost to confidence and certainly led to plenty of ebullient celebrations, but Sarri was left with a sour taste in his mouth, and not just because assistant Marco Ianni overstepped some imaginary bounds of “class”.
“At this period of the season, one point more or one point less is the same, I want to play every match for three points. I am very happy with the performance of the team for 60 minutes.
“For 60 minutes we played our football. After the goal to make it 1-1 we didn’t play our football, only the long ball. This kind of football United are better than us. I am really disappointed with the last 30 minutes.
“The goal in the last minute is OK for the confidence of the players. I have to look at something else. Now I’ve seen the match on the bench, now I want to study the second part of the match.”
Once Sarri studies the tape, his mood is unlikely to improve. Chelsea’s defensive shape was questionable in critical situations, the passing was often slow, lackadaisical and inaccurate, the finishing was typically poor overall, and the team seemed to panic and lose belief after United got on the board. Resorting to long balls could very well be the worst thing in Sarri’s book.
“We played our football very well for 60 minutes. At 1-1 we stopped with our football and played other football. I don’t want the long ball and to go to the second ball. I want to play with short passes.”
“I don’t know [why that happened]. If I knew I [would’ve been] able to change immediately the situation. Now I have to study the match. For you a match is 90 minutes, for me tomorrow a match is four hours!”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Chelsea FC
Plenty of work to do on the training ground then.
Fortunately, as busy as Chelsea’s upcoming schedule may be — including today’s match, it’s 7 games in 22 days before the November international break — they are all eminently winnable games (BATE home and away in Europa, Derby in the League Cup, and league games at home vs. Crystal Palace and Everton and away against Burnley). The draw against United hurts in the standings, especially after City smashed Burnley and Liverpool are about to do the same to Huddersfield, but there’s a great chance to get back on the winning track as we head into winter.
Onwards and upwards!