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Sarri puts focus on long-term planning and improvement as Chelsea face Manchester City

Chelsea vs Manchester City, Premier League: Pre-match press conference

Chelsea are in a bit of a slump nowadays, with four points from the last four Premier League games, three of which came against the last-placed team in the league. It may not be a stretch to say that this is probably the worst time to face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, but that's the task at hand and that's what we must do.

Speaking in the pre-match press conference ahead of this huge game, Maurizio Sarri spoke about team news, how to beat the unbeatable, and how to improve beyond the our current station in football.

First things first, team news. According to Sarri, every player should be available for the upcoming game, including Marcos Alonso.

"At the moment we have no serious injuries. I think ever player will be able to play. Of course I have to see the last training.

“[Alonso] played not very well against Fulham, he played better in the first half at Wolves, but had some problems in the second half. Of course Emerson is a good option. I have to consider also some details. Without Alonso we could have problems in set pieces. I have to consider everything.”

While it’s easy to latch onto poor individual performances or certain tactical decisions, Sarri’s main concerns lie with the team as a whole, especially in terms of mentality, determination, and focus.

“The problem is only the results. When we won, N’Golo was good, at this moment we are not winning so it is normal ‘some players are playing badly, in bad positions’ . It is normal. I have explained why Kante plays in that role.”

Chelsea have not put a full-shift for 90 minutes for some time, often starting matches slowly, or, like on Wednesday, collapsing at key times.

“I think we have a problem to manage the match at the moment, we have played well for 55 minutes but then in the first difficulty we had a blackout. We were a little unlucky, because the opponents only had two on target. We were not able to react.”

“It is not easy to answer, but I have seen in the last matches we didn’t react as a team or 11 players, so it is a big problem. We need a leader and a collective target can give us determination. In some matches we have lacked it, like in the last match.”

The fix is not easy. The squad’s inconsistencies can be maddening and mystifying and Sarri isn’t the first Chelsea coach to struggle with this — and he’s arguably dealing better with it (so far anyway) than Mourinho and Conte did in the end.

What’s certain is that the fix won’t come overnight. It won’t come in January or just through the transfer market. There’s a need for collective improvement, for patience, for understanding, for time. None of those are easy to grant when the team’s aim remains winning, but we’ll have to find some sort of balance if we are to reach the level required to challenge for a league title once again.

Chelsea (from the owner on down to the fans) must support Sarri more than just week-to-week if we are to make his project work.

“When you are improving you have to pass these moments. I knew sooner or later we had to face difficulties. When you change the way of playing to need to change the way of mentality, of 25 minds. It is very difficult. As a result in Liverpool or Manchester, but then you can create something important. You cannot change the mentality in one day, it has to be day-by-day. We have to change the mentality, it is a long story.“

However, Chelsea’s match against Manchester City is this weekend, not next weekend or next year or whenever the long story reaches its third act and Chelsea become the best in Europe. Is there anything we can do right now?

The match is very important, it is a very difficult match against one of the best teams in Europe. It is impossible to beat them in a long period in this moment, but anything can happen in a match.”

“Against Guardiola I have lost every match, so you have to ask someone else (laughs).

“We need to have a collective target, we need determination, at the moment they are stronger than us, but our final target is to be the best in Europe. Anything can happen and we have to believe in it.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London

City might beat Chelsea nine times out of ten, but we only have to win this one. Football is a funny game and if Wigan could knock Manchester City out of FA Cup last season...


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