Definitive reasons cited in the last few days for Chelsea’s disastrous defeat against Tottenham Hotspur over the weekend — Sarri’s first competitive loss in charge — have included things like lack of motivation, fitness concerns, and tactical issues, but Sarri himself remains firmly in the mentality camp.
It’s an issue he has been highlighting recently, including before the match against Spurs, and now once again as he addressed the media ahead of Thursday’s Europa League encounter against PAOK.
“I have to think of everything. Saturday we played very badly, a match without determination. But we lost a match after 110 days I think. So the team did well generally, but we have to understand why we played against Spurs without the determination, it is not normal.
“I want to see a reaction tomorrow and on Sunday. I want to see we have learned from our mistakes.”
The past is the past, so as with any setback, the most important thing is a proper response to it. Those 90 minutes at Wembley are long; it’s time now to learn from those mistakes.
To ensure that the correct lessons are getting drawn from that debacle, Sarri held an individual meeting with each and every player. It sounds like some of those meetings were more useful than others, though it’s unlikely that Sarri would’ve gone into great detail to reveal what useful information he or may not have gleaned in any case.
“I went player by player. I had a meeting of ten minutes, individual meetings. We lost the match after three months and a half, we have to understand why and from the mental approach. If you don’t have the determination then maybe you don’t have the character in the mind, I wanted to understand this.”
“It is difficult [for the players] to tell me why. Someone told me that the international might have been a problem, to be back 100%. But I don’t know. Maybe for Spurs it was easier as the players played in London on Sunday so they were all together, but the situation was similar.”
“The problem in the last three matches has been the approach in the match. Tottenham are very strong and that makes the problem bigger. They were able to destroy us in 15, and I saw that problem in the game before.”
The one thing that is abundantly clear is that Sarri won’t be ripping up his tactical plans anytime soon. He’s worked hard to develop his own system over the years and one defeat isn’t going to make him lose faith in it. He would be a terrible coach if he let the whims of fans and media decide what he does and doesn’t do in training and in matches, after all.
If there are problems with Sarri-ball right now, it’s because of execution rather than instructions. Chelsea have had issues with defensive transition, pressing, and various other aspects of it, and now we can add midfield cohesion and positioning with the ball as well.
“As you know I want to play a central midfielder with great technical ability, so Jorginho and Fàbregas [are my options for the deep midfield role]. I don’t want Kanté in this position.
“Kanté tried to solve the match on Saturday, but in the wrong way. He tried to be too attacking. Maybe it is a question of time. He needs to stay near to Jorginho. [Kanté getting forward] depends on the action. If the ball is on the left, no. He has to stay very close to Jorginho.”
Incidentally, with many Einsteins clamoring for Kanté to stay deeper, we might actually all arrive at the same place once he does learn all that is required from the box-to-box role in Sarrismo.
So, it’s Sarri-ball or bust, idealism vs. pragmatism. Results had been very good prior to Saturday, even if it needed a bit of luck, so as long as Chelsea return to those unbeaten ways, Sarri-ball will live on. Should Chelsea make it work, Sarri believes we can go right to the very top.
“The target in my mind is very clear, it is to win something and in the long time to become the best team in Europe.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football.London