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Sarri hoping to enlist sports psychologist to fix Chelsea’s mentality issues

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The squad’s physical condition is good, but issues in mentality remain

Chelsea FC v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Thanks to his fairly strict rotation policy, Maurizio Sarri does not believe (physical) fatigue — or tactical issues, for that matter — is the reason behind some of the more disappointing, even disastrous results over the past month, which has seen Chelsea lose to Spurs, Wolves, and now, at home, to Leicester City.

“I don’t think so because we haven’t players with large number of minutes. We have players with large number of minutes in the Premier League, but not in the season, so I don’t think so.

”The physical performance in the match against Bournemouth was one of the best this season for quantity, one of the best in quality, for number of accelerations, for high-speed [sprints].

”I think it’s impossible to change the physical condition in two minutes. We were on the pitch very well for 55 minutes and then after two minutes, after the goal, we were in trouble. I think there is another reason, not the physical condition.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: ESPN

Sarri’s Premier League A-Team has not seen much variation beyond the identity of the third midfielder (Kovačić, Barkley, or Loftus-Cheek) and more recently going all-smalls at forward with Hazard in the center, while the B-Team has collected the vast majority of League Cup and Europa League minutes so far. It’s essentially two sets of eleven players playing once a week, which should be a perfect workload.

Instead, Sarri continues to point the finger at perceived issues in the squad’s mentality. After all, it’s not easy to explain results like a 2-0 win over Manchester City following a 2-1 loss to Wolves that featured a mid-game collapse, or following “one of the best” performances this season in the League Cup win over Bournemouth by collapsing again to another mid-table Premier League team like Leicester — or, looking from a wider angle, the incredible highs and lows of recent seasons, with title wins followed by palpable discord.

“I think we played very well for 55 minutes, we played very good football. After the goal the reaction was, for me, a strange reaction, not in the right direction, not as a team but as 11 different players and so it was very strange.

“I think we could have done better in the reaction. We only had to continue to play as in the first part of the match, there was time to score without a reaction as a team shocked, as a team in mental confusion.

“I don’t know [why this happened]. If I knew I would have solved the problem before this match. It’s difficult to understand because we have players with lots of experience.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Chelsea FC

One potential solution that Sarri might explore is to hire a sports psychologist, just like he did at a previous job 15 years ago. While modern football has become very good at understanding and treating physical condition, the idea that mental condition also has be paid attention to is still very new and still carries with it a certain level of stigma in the “macho” world of professional sports. Just the fact that Chelsea, who can boast some of the best facilities and amenities available to players, apparently do not have a sports psychologist on staff already tells a story in an of itself.

“No [we’re not using a sports psychologist], not at the moment, because it’s not easy.

”I had a sports psychologist 15 years ago. In Italy it was really very difficult because the clubs were not ready in that moment, but I think they are not ready also in this moment. [That was] my experience in Italy.

”I don’t know [what it’s like] here. We can talk about this [with the club]. Why not?”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: ESPN

Well, it certainly can’t hurt. While Chelsea’s issues probably extend beyond just mentality — tactics, fitness, motivation, raw talent, they all play a part — paying better attention to the mental aspect, which is something that Mourinho and Conte brought up as well (especially Mourinho), can only help, both now and in the future.