Football: Furious Sarri slams Chelsea players as 'difficult to motivate'

Alexandre Lacazette (right, partly hidden) scoring Arsenal's first goal against Chelsea on Saturday. The Blues lost 2-0 and manager Maurizio Sarri insisted it was his players' attitude, not his system, that was the problem.
Alexandre Lacazette (right, partly hidden) scoring Arsenal's first goal against Chelsea on Saturday. The Blues lost 2-0 and manager Maurizio Sarri insisted it was his players' attitude, not his system, that was the problem.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri shamed his Chelsea players by making a remarkable - and perhaps risky - attack on their character on Saturday, suggesting that they may not have the "motivation" and "mentality" of top professionals.

He was so furious about the lackadaisical elements of his team's performance in the 2-0 Premier League loss at Arsenal that, for the first time since joining Chelsea in the summer, the Italian reverted to his native language in his post-game press conference.

The Blues manager did so "because I want to send a message to my players, and I want my message to be very clear".

That message was withering.

Sarri said through an interpreter: "I have to say I'm extremely angry, very angry indeed. This defeat was due to our mentality.

"We played against a team that mentally was far more determined than we were and this is something I can't accept.

"We had the same issue at Tottenham and we spoke frankly about that particular loss (a 3-1 defeat in November). I thought we had managed to overcome this issue.

"But it seems we have an issue with having the right amount of determination and being mentally strong. The fact of the matter is I'm finding that this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate."

Despite having the majority of the ball - 64 per cent possession - at the Emirates, the away side were blunt in attack and casual in defence, and could have conceded more in a first half dominated by the home team, who scored through Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny.

Even though Arsenal lost Hector Bellerin after the break to a serious-looking knee injury, Chelsea had just one shot on target which again questioned Sarri's decision to start without a recognised striker.

Olivier Giroud was named on the bench while Alvaro Morata was omitted ahead of his imminent move to Atletico Madrid.

However, he insisted it was his players' attitude and not his system that was the problem despite Eden Hazard again having a limited impact while playing as a "false nine".

Sarri added: "When you see this kind of game, when one team is more determined than the other, you can't really talk about tactics."

While Chelsea remain in fourth place, they are now only three points above Arsenal and Manchester United, and Sarri appeared to question whether his side had the stomach for the top-four dogfight.

With a 1-0 deficit to overturn against Tottenham in the League Cup semi-final second leg on Thursday, Sarri hinted at a "new player coming in" - widely reported to be Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain - that could give his team a lift but still wants them to "face up to their own responsibilities".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline 'Furious Sarri slams Chelsea players as 'difficult to motivate''. Print Edition | Subscribe