Much will be made of Martin Atkinson’s decision to not award Eden Hazard a penalty in the 14th minute, with Chelsea trailing 1-0. To do so would ignore that this was an old-fashioned thumping. Down 2-0 after 16 minutes, Chelsea had the better part of 70 minutes to rectify the situation. For a team of the Blues’ supposed caliber, that should’ve been a reasonable ask.
But they never came close. Tottenham dominated until the last ten minutes, when late sub Olivier Giroud got his second goal of the season. By then, up 3-0 and cruising, Tottenham had understandably eased off.
After the match, Maurizio Sarri said he could see it coming. He’s talked about the team’s weaknesses repeatedly in the past few months, and for the first time, those weaknesses manifested themselves on the scoreboard for all to see as well. Four months into the season, this team still has fundamental issues that need to be addressed.
“It’s clear, I knew we had a lot of problems to solve and I think today was clear for everybody, first of all I hope for the players. I told them before we had a big problem in the approach to the match and today there was a difference in the level of the opponent. We played very badly. We have a lot of problems to solve but I knew that before the match.”
Tottenham tore Chelsea’s defence apart. David Luiz had a day to forget. Ineffective would not begin to cover Jorginho’s day — marked out of the game for the second match running in an obvious blueprint for all to follow. Eden Hazard showed effort, at times, but little else. But it’s hard to think of a single Chelsea player who put in a good performance as Chelsea conceded more goals than in any other game under Sarri.
“Defensive phase today was a disaster. I am not talking about the defenders, I am talking about the offensive players pressing very badly. Midfielders defended not very well. The defensive line as a consequence was a disaster.”
“We were surprised because they played with 4-3-1-2.... In the first 25 minute we had big problems trying to exit our half. We lost a lot of balls and against Tottenham that is very dangerous. In short counter attacks they are one of the strongest teams in Europe. It was a disaster.”
Maurizio Sarri has rued Chelsea’s slow starts. At Wembley, one obvious difference between the two teams was their energy level. Tottenham came out on fire, playing like this was a big event for them, maybe even more than a London derby. Chelsea barely got out of “testimonial pace”, as one pundit put it afterwards.
Which brings us back around to where we started — that uncalled penalty on Hazard in the 8th minute. Sarri himself dismissed the idea that it could have changed the result.
“I don’t think so, because for 90 minutes there was a difference.”
True to his stance on Friday, Sarri never once mentioned needing new players. He says he needs more time with his current squad on the training ground, but with PAOK looming on Thursday (and until Chelsea lose in a cup) it’s not going to happen.
“It is difficult to have training just for improving the team. To improve the single players. We have time only to prepare the next match.”
Sarri has been warning us that there’d be trouble ahead. Until now, the worst of it has been a diet of draws. He warned that implementing Sarri-ball properly would take time and that we would have to be patient. But with Tottenham’s dominant win, the wisdom of his prediction is obvious. And so are the weaknesses inherent in the system.
How smart our reaction will be however is going to prove crucial for the rest of the season.