In his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday's big match against Arsenal, Maurizio Sarri spoke about transfers, transfers and more transfers.
First things first, the elephant in the room, Gonzalo Higuaín. It’s all but set that the Argentinian striker will move to Chelsea. Unfortunately, the transfer could not be completed in time for the Arsenal match but it’s just a formality at this point. However, that didn’t stop Sarri from keeping his cards close to his chest as he didn’t confirm or deny anything that we didn’t already know.
“I don’t know. I want to be clear, I spoke to Marina two weeks ago, she knows my opinion and then I decided to be focused on the pitch and training. I know that Marina is working very hard, but I know nothing about the market. I don’t call her every evening, otherwise I spend my energy on the market, it is better to spend mental energy on the pitch.”
Another transfer which is set to happen is Alvaro Morata’s transfer out of Chelsea and now, it also seems a matter of when rather than if. Once again Sarri didn’t offer anything concrete.
“I don’t know if he will play, he is training with us of course. It is normal. It is a difficult moment, it is normal for a player in January to be involved in a market. He is available (to play).”
One transfer which is not so certain, however, is in central midfield. Cesc Fabregas’ transfer to Monaco has left a void in the squad and Sarri has reiterated the importance of filling that void with a quality replacement.
“You know my opinion about Cesc replacement. We need one, in my opinion, Marina knows that, I am not frustrated at the moment.”
Another player who has been transfer-linked is Chelsea’s young star, Callum Hudson-Odoi. Once again, Sarri refused to offer anything concrete about the player’s transfer status but instead chose to focus on Hudson-Odoi’s improvement as a player, citing that with the defensive aspect of Hudson-Odoi’s training being done, the focus now is on improving Callum’s off-the-ball movement. The youngster has shown a willingness to learn and most of all, the ability to do so.
“I don’t want to talk with him about something that I cannot solve. So I am very happy with him. One month ago we worked with him for the defensive phase and he improved immediately. Now we are working with him with movement off the ball. He is improving a lot.
“I think he is in a positive moment, also mentally, for the attitude and the way he is training.”
Moving on, we must not forget that there is a match on the horizon, an important one at that. If we win, we’ll be 9 points clear of Arsenal and if we lose, we’ll get them a golden ticket for their entry back into the race for the top four.
Last time, Chelsea squeezed out a nervy 3-2 win, but that was more down to Arsenal’s terrible finishing rather than any brilliance on our part. Sarri knows how dangerous Arsenal can be in the offensive phase and has thus taken measures to stop their free flowing attack.
“August was a very different match. We learned they had a lot of dangerous movements, especially when our full-back is out of the line. We worked during this week on this, they are very dangerous.
“Marcos in that match scored in a very unusual action for us. It wasn’t by chance but similar. I think that we can be dangerous against these opponents, but we have to stay in the match, defend and have good application for 95 minutes.”
In terms of injuries, there is not much to talk about. Sarri just confirmed that Loftus-Cheek is still out injured as expected and reported no new concerns.
That’s all of note from Sarri’s pre-match press conference. In an ideal world, we’d have completed Higuain’s transfer by now and would have him on the bench in the Arsenal match. However, this is not an ideal world and we must make do with whatever and try to eke out a win in this tough away match.