Maurizio Sarri’s stern criticism after the hot mess that was our 2-0 loss to Arsenal last weekend seems to have worked.
Chelsea showed up big tonight in the League Cup semifinal second leg, beating Tottenham 2-1 on the night — thus leveling the score on aggregate at 2-2 — and winning the penalty kick shootout, 4-2, to advance to the final against Manchester City.
Sarri was certainly glad that his words did not fall on deaf ears.
“I think they reacted really very well tonight. I didn’t attack my players, I only said we had a problem. The reaction was very good, but now we need to have continuity. I was really very happy with the performance.”
Whereas Chelsea’s previous boss, Antonio Conte was all about work, Sarri wants his players to have fun on the pitch. He wasn’t the only person to recognize that factor had largely gone missing in recent performances.
But tonight, the fun was back! Thanks, Spurs!
“I think in the last three or four matches we have had a problem, I think the players had stopped to have fun on the pitch. I think again we can find enthusiasm, it was very important.”
One Chelsea player who is perhaps driven a bit too much by fun, by his own admission, is Eden Hazard. But while he may lack a bit of drive at times, on big occasions such as tonight, he often steps up. And when he does, there might not be another player in England who can make as big of a difference as he can.
.@hazardeden10: MotM -- @ChelseaFC 2-1 Tottenham— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 24, 2019
For more match stats -- https://t.co/9edCYYnWzR pic.twitter.com/mbiHaYEfGc
Were it not Martin Atkinson’s egregious refereeing, and a couple close shaves in the second half, he could have easily notched a hat-trick. The goal he did get was his first of the calendar year.
Still, Eden was clearly having plenty of fun on the pitch and happy to be back in his usual position, despite the constant kicking administered from the likes of Eric “England’s Penalty Shootout Hero” Dier.
“[Was Hazard having fun?] I think so. I had fun with 70-75 minutes with Hazard, I think he was tired at the end. He played a fantastic match.”
“I think the position is not a big problem. I think we played with another mind and motivation and determination. His qualities are more important than that position.”
Hazard was well supported by Brazilian-Italian left-back Emerson Palmieri, who greatly impressed onlookers while deputizing for the rather more beleaguered Marcos Alonso.
Emerson v Tottenham— Chelsea Loan Army (@ChelseaLoanArmy) January 24, 2019
2 Loss of possession
85% Pass accuracy
2 Big chances created
2 Key passes
1/2 Long balls
2 Dribbled past
Emerson has to start every game
Sarri made sure to dismiss any rumours that Emerson was set to leave this month, while complimenting him on his steady development since the start of the season.
“Emerson stays with us for sure. He is improving, sometimes we have a problem to put him in the starting XI as we are not a physical team, so when you have three little players set pieces can be a problem, not another reason. I am very happy with him and he is improving.”
Sarri has yet to win a trophy at the professional level, after years building up his reputation at amateur and semi-professional clubs in Italy. His last final was the 2012-13 Italian Serie B promotion playoff with Empoli, which he proceeded to lose 2-1 on aggregate score to Livorno.
Obviously, he hopes that his next one, at Wembley, will be much different.
“The final for the play-off of Serie A [was my last one]. If you say I have never won anything at this level, you are right. I am really very happy because I get to play a final at Wembley.
“But now we have to think to the FA Cup, then the next dangerous match will be Bournemouth.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football.London
Eyes on the prize(s)!