Maurizio Sarri spent most of his pre-match press conference talking about Callum Hudson-Odoi, and as annoyed as he may have been by that, his words regarding Chelsea’s actual football and results didn’t generate too much goodwill or confidence either.
As we may recall, before the international break — frankly, the past two weeks of not having to fret about which Chelsea would show up on any given day have been weirdly soothing — Chelsea slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Everton to put a swift stop to the good vibes generated by the five-match unbeaten run prior to it (seven if you include the League Cup final defeat on penalties). The disappointment at Goodison woud’ve been surprising had we not come to expect the lack of consistency that’s been the one consistent feature of the team all season.
Unfortunately, Sarri remains just as baffled as the rest of us by this, which is a bit of a problem since it’s supposed to be his job to figure out a solution.
“In the last match, we played very well for 45 minutes. And then the first difficulty — two corners — we conceded a goal, and after the goal we were not able to react in the right way. It’s very strange after the first 45 minutes.
“But the problem is not the corner. The problem is the reaction. The problem in the last match was clear. We were not able to face the first difficulty of the match. We were not able to react. So it was clear that the problem was the mentality.
“So we need to work and try and improve our mentality as soon as possible, because we are able to react. In the first part of the season, if you remember, we were able to react immediately when we conceded a goal. So it’s very strange. Now the situation is different.”
Is it so strange? Really? Are we sure? Immediate reactions?
Chelsea have a grand total of one (1) come-from-behind win this season — incidentally, it was against Cardiff City, Sunday’s opponents (they took the lead at the Bridge in the 16th minute before getting smacked 4-1). Other than rescuing a point late against Manchester United with Ross Barkley’s equalizer, and against Wolves the other day through Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s record of “reacting” after falling behind has been quite terrible, actually. (Chelsea also have the win at Anfield in the League Cup to hold up in this regard, but it’s not clear if single-elimination competitions should be lumped into this narrative about consistency.)
“It’s really very strange. In the first half of the season, we played better away than at home. Now, in the last five matches, we were in trouble away, and I don’t know why. It’s very difficult to explain the last four or five matches away.”
Four losses in the last five away league games, without even scoring a goal (Arsenal 2-0, Bournemouth 4-0, Manchester City 6-0, Everton 2-0), not to mention the losses to Spurs (3-1) and Wolves (2-1) that pulled back the curtain from the mirage of the 18-match unbeaten run at the start of the season. The four wins Chelsea do have in that span away from the Bridge have all been by a the narrowest of margins and against some of the worst teams in the league (2-1 Brighton, 2-1 Watford, 1-0 Crystal Palace, 2-1 Fulham).
More concerningly, Sarri still has no answers. It would appear that he’s trying to solve the problem the same way he’s tried to before — let’s talk it out, lads! — and, unsurprisingly, getting the same results from it.
”I am really very confident [his players can address the issue], but, especially away, the reaction on the pitch to the difficulties in the last few months were really wrong.
“I think we can change [but] it’s very difficult. Very difficult to speak about the mentality. It’s difficult to improve only by speaking. I can give them only examples. An example is more important than a speech. But it’s a long way, I think.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Evening Standard
Sorry, boss, the road ahead is very short.