Big Match

Need for reinforcements not diluting Sarri's focus

LONDON • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri's focus is solely on today's Premier League visit to Arsenal and not moves in the January transfer window, despite the increasing possibility the club will be adding Gonzalo Higuain to their ranks.

The striker is expected to complete a loan move from Juventus, with the Daily Mail reporting he arrived in London yesterday.

While the 31-year-old cannot feature at the Emirates as he was not registered in time, the Argentinian could possibly make his debut at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea taking on Tottenham in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final on Thursday.

Sarri previously coached Higuain at Napoli where he scored an Italian Serie A record of 36 goals in the 2015-16 season.

Although his stock has fallen this term with only eight goals in 22 appearances for AC Milan after being forced out on loan following Juventus' blockbuster signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, Sarri will be hopeful he can regain his scoring touch with a change of environment.

Olivier Giroud and Atletico Madrid-bound Alvaro Morata have scored a paltry six league goals between them this season, with Eden Hazard leading the way with 10.

Such has been the dearth of firepower at Stamford Bridge that Sarri has been compelled to press the Belgian into a "false nine" role despite him more used to starting out wide.

TO THE WIRE

We know very well we will have to fight for the top four until the end I think. United will fight for sure until the end. Arsenal, Tottenham are close to us in the table, there are four teams for two places.

MAURIZIO SARRI, Chelsea manager, on the route to next season's Champions League.

At his pre-match press conference yesterday, Sarri declined to be drawn on Higuain's imminent arrival, insisting that while he had made club director and chief transfer negotiator Marina Granovskaia aware of what his side needed, he "did not know" who was coming through the door.

The Italian told reporters: "I spoke with Marina two weeks ago, so Marina knows very well my opinion on how to improve the team.

"Then I decide to be focused on the pitch, on matches, on training.

"I don't call her every evening, otherwise, I spend all my mental energies on the market. It's better if I spend all my mental energies on the pitch."

Besides Higuain, compatriot Leandro Paredes has also been hotly linked as a replacement for midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who left earlier this month to join Monaco.

However, the Blues will have to act fast with Paris Saint-Germain looking to gazump Sarri to his signature.

According to Sky Italia's Gianluca di Marzio, the French champions are attempting to hijack the deal and have reportedly tabled a €35 million (S$54 million) bid for the Zenit St Petersburg midfielder, who according to The Guardian, averages 7.6 accurate long balls per game and is known for his ability to switch play.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline 'Need for reinforcements not diluting Sarri's focus'. Print Edition | Subscribe