Sarri may turn to psychologist to fix Blues' woes

Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is due to make only his second Premier League start of the season in one of Chelsea's next two matches. Coach Maurizio Sarri says the engine room is imbalanced as N'Golo Kante is their only defensive midfielder.
Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is due to make only his second Premier League start of the season in one of Chelsea's next two matches. Coach Maurizio Sarri says the engine room is imbalanced as N'Golo Kante is their only defensive midfielder.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri will consider drafting a psychologist onto his coaching staff after suggesting that his Chelsea players are suffering from a mental block during matches.

The Blues coach had seen his team take the foot off the gas late in the recent win at Brighton and succumb to Wolves in similar circumstances, and last Saturday's 1-0 Premier League home loss to Leicester was more of the same.

Defender Antonio Rudiger branded his team's third defeat in six league games "a disaster" and down to "a lack of mentality".

Urging his teammates to make amends ahead of their league trip to Watford tomorrow, he said: "We don't talk about the title any more. If we can't win these games, we can't compete. We only talk now about top four. Stupid."

Sarri also felt Chelsea's underlying problems could not be pinned on fitness issues, saying: "There is another reason - not the players' physical condition.

"I had a sports psychologist 15 years ago in Italy, but it was really very difficult because the clubs were not ready then. But we can talk about it, why not?

The Italian is expected to shuffle the pack - striker Alvaro Morata remains an injury doubt - at Vicarage Road and he confirmed that midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek would make only his second league start of the season against either the Hornets or at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Hinting that there could be departures when the January transfer window opens, he said: "At the moment, we have too many. We have 28 players and it's impossible to use all of them. 25 is the right number.

"You already know my opinion, because I've told you in the past. We have a lot of offensive midfielders and we have only (N'Golo) Kante as a defensive midfielder so it's not easy now for the midfield to have the right balance."

But, for now, Sarri will have to put all thoughts of transfers to the side and focus on an improving Watford side, now in seventh place and with genuine designs on a Europa League spot.

The last time Javi Gracia's men played European football was in the 1983-84 season, but captain Troy Deeney feels this could be their year as they are "not a bad outfit". He told The Mirror: "I let everybody else do the ambitions. We know what we have got in the dressing room.

"But we've got to keep doing what we're doing, be a bit arrogant in terms of knowing what we have got, but humble enough to know you have to work hard to win in this league."

Teammate Craig Cathcart agreed, insisting the mood around the club was "going really well".

He said: "Since I've come to the club, it's been an uphill scale. We've managed to stabilise ourselves in the Premier League.

"We've added top-quality players since we've been here and it's just a pleasure to play for the club."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'Sarri may turn to psychologist to fix Blues' woes'. Print Edition | Subscribe