For the first 59 minutes on a wet Wednesday night in the West Midlands, Chelsea had things comfortably in hand against a team that had lost collected just 1 point from a possible 18 in the previous six Premier League matches. Dominant in possession and blessed with numerous close chances to add to Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first-half goal, it felt like it was just a matter of time before the Blues doubled their lead and went home with all three points.
But the warning signs were there. Wolves only looked dangerous on the break, but the danger was real. And when they broke and Raul Jimenez put it past Christensen and Arrizabalaga to equalize, everything changed. From Sarri’s vantage point on the touchline, the team looked to have basically stopped playing.
“I think that we played very well for 55 minutes. After the goal, it was an accident because we were in full control of the match. We were suddenly a different team, I don’t know why. I am really very worried, not for the result but for the fact we didn’t respond to the first goal.
“If you had asked me the same question after 55 minutes I would say I was happy. We lost everything. It can happen, but I don’t think it. It was without reaction.”
This isn’t the first time that Sarri has raised issues with Chelsea’s mentality. It’s an issue that’s come up before this season, typically under the heading of “leadership”, has come up under the general heading of “titles followed by collapses”, and has come up more recently under the heading of “slow starts”.
The new heading is “without reaction”, a refrain for the lack of tempo, movement, pressing. It’s a heading that ignores any potential uncalled fouls (Boly on Morata, Moutinho on Willian, etc?), and puts the responsibility squarely on Blue shirts’ shoulders, starters, backups, old, and young.
“I don’t know, but I think it is more important to talk about our attitude, the first goal. We were not the same team. It was not for me. I have to understand why. Only for a goal. We had to play 35 minutes after that.”
Sarri now has his second loss of the season and second in three Premier League contests, both away from home. Chelsea have slipped to fourth in the league, two points behind Tottenham Hotspur and ahead of Arsenal only on goal difference.
Worse, mighty Manchester City sweep into the Bridge in just three days.
Grasping for positives, Sarri’s looking at Saturday as a chance for a significant response, and a good way to exorcise the demons from his team.
“As I said before, City are in another category. They are not in our category. We have to play and to fight to be in the top four I think. The result is very difficult for this. In every match you have to gain points. I lost Serie A with 91 points, so I know every match you have to gain points.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London
Unless we get trounced, of course.
Sarri suggests this result could help make sure the team's attitude is right to play Man City at the weekend. That is all from the boss here but there will be more on https://t.co/OFDrFXj77c and the 5th Stand app soon. #WOLCHE— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 5, 2018
All season Sarri has warned us that the going would get rough. Now it has, at a most inconvenient time in terms of the schedule. The December fixture list is packed with matches and potential points. And that means he’s not going to have much time to fix what’s going wrong with the team.