Azpilicueta issues rallying call to 'angry' Blues

Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta looks dejected during the Premier League's AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea at Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, on Jan 30, 2019.
Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta looks dejected during the Premier League's AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea at Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, on Jan 30, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta hopes Maurizio Sarri's decision to hold a lengthy inquest after their defeat by Bournemouth can reignite their stuttering season, as they prepare to host bottom club Huddersfield today.

Sarri's side were crushed 4-0 on Wednesday in a shocking setback that was Chelsea's heaviest Premier League loss since 1996.

Not for the first time this season, the Blues paid the price for failing to turn first-half possession into goals, collapsing after the interval as Bournemouth punished the sloppy defending of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger.

Chelsea's fifth defeat in their last 12 league games cost them their place in the top four. Arsenal moved above them on goals scored and Sarri, who arrived from Napoli in July, is fighting for his job.

The furious Italian asked his backroom staff to leave the Chelsea dressing room at Dean Court as he staged a 40-minute post-mortem alone with his squad.

Azpilicueta admitted that tempers had frayed because the performance was so far below the expected standard for the 2016-17 Premier League champions.

"Afterwards, we spoke as men between the manager and players," he said. "To lose 4-0 as Chelsea players is unacceptable. We are very angry and have to find solutions."

Sarri, 60, has risked losing the backing of his players with several scathing assessments of their displays this season.

NO ROOM FOR ERROR

We are in trouble after dropping six points in the last two games. It's become harder, but we have to get the three points on Saturday; there is no other option.

CESAR AZPILICUETA , Chelsea captain, on what the team must do against Huddersfield today.

But the Italian, yet to win a major trophy as a manager, conceded he might also be to blame as he admitted needing to find a better way to motivate his stars.

While it might be too soon for Sarri to worrying about his job, he desperately needs a repeat of the solid form Chelsea showed during the 18-game unbeaten run that marked the start of his reign.

Since then, he has come under fire from Chelsea fans, who chanted "You don't know what you're doing" at him when he took off new striker Gonzalo Higuain against Bournemouth.

Playing Eden Hazard out of position as a forward and sticking with Jorginho as a defensive midfielder instead of the proven N'Golo Kante have been the two biggest issues with Sarri's tactics.

As the race to qualify for the Champions League grows tighter, with sixth-placed Manchester United only two points behind Chelsea, Azpilicueta knows every match is crucial.

"It is very tight. Two weeks ago, we were in a better position. We have put ourselves at risk," he said.

"We are in trouble after dropping six points in the last two games. It's become harder, but we have to get the three points on Saturday; there is no other option.

"The minimum we should do is qualify for the Champions League."

New Huddersfield boss Jan Siewert has identified Chelsea's vulnerabilities, but said his own side must simply focus on building on their encouraging display in the 1-0 home defeat by Everton on Tuesday.

The German said: "I saw some situations in which they were vulnerable but, to be honest, it will be a totally different game.

"I know Maurizio Sarri is a fantastic manager and we have to face everything which they give us."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V HUDDERSFIELD

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2019, with the headline 'Azpilicueta issues rallying call to 'angry' Blues'. Print Edition | Subscribe