Midfielder wanted to keep up Blues' push

Spanish forward Pedro in good spirits after scoring Chelsea's opening goal against Newcastle, as Willian joins in the celebrations. The Brazilian netted the winner in the second half.
Spanish forward Pedro in good spirits after scoring Chelsea's opening goal against Newcastle, as Willian joins in the celebrations. The Brazilian netted the winner in the second half.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • With a six-point gap separating fourth-placed Chelsea and nearest challengers Arsenal, Maurizio Sarri has urged the club's hierarchy to reinforce their midfield in the January transfer window to consolidate their top-four place.

After breezing past Newcastle 2-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday, the Chelsea manager feels signings would keep up their push for the last automatic Champions League spot.

Despite having a star-studded squad, the Blues still lack depth in key positions with Sarri admitting he "needs an option for Jorginho".

He told reporters after the victory at Stamford Bridge: "As you have seen, today, Jorginho was in trouble (after collecting a yellow card) and on the bench, there wasn't a player for that position so I need a player.

"The club knows very well my opinion, I need the player there (but) it depends on the club decision."

The Italian reiterated his stance that Willian, who netted the 57th-minute winner against Rafael Benitez's men and has been linked with a big-money move to Barcelona, was going nowhere as he "is a fundamental player".

The Brazil forward took turns with Pedro, who opened the scoring for the home side in the ninth minute, to torment the Magpies, whose 40th-minute equaliser came from Ciaran Clark.

Despite the ongoing speculation, Willian, who has just 18 months left on his contract, remains a "very important player" with the ability to take the scoring load off top scorer Eden Hazard, given the woeful form of their main strikers Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata.

While Sarri claimed post-game "he did not know anything" about a possible extension to his deal, Willian, who scored just his fifth goal of the season and first in the league since October, insisted that he was paying no heed to the rumours, telling BT Sport his "future was here at Chelsea".

OUT OF MY HANDS

The club knows very well my opinion, I need the player there (but) it depends on the club decision.

MAURIZIO SARRI, Chelsea manager, who has urged the Premier League club to beef up their midfield.

In Italy, Gennaro Gattuso, Sarri's counterpart at AC Milan, similarly had to fend off the same line of questioning over Gonzalo Higuain, whom Chelsea are reportedly targeting to solve their issues up front.

The Argentina striker joined Milan on a season-long loan from Juventus in July with an option to make the deal permanent, but he has struggled to settle at the San Siro, scoring just eight goals in all competitions this term.

After again drawing a blank in their 2-0 Italian Cup win over Sampdoria on Saturday, Gattuso said the club were "holding on tightly to him" for now before conceding that he "did not know what will happen" as "when a player makes up his mind (to leave), it becomes hard to convince them otherwise".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2019, with the headline 'Midfielder wanted to keep up Blues' push'. Print Edition | Subscribe