Football: Sarri worried about Chelsea's 'mental block'

Everton's Richarlison heading home their first goal against Chelsea at Goodison Park. The Brazilian's 12th league goal of the season set the Toffees on their way to a 2-0 win, their first over a top-six side since January 2017.
Everton's Richarlison heading home their first goal against Chelsea at Goodison Park. The Brazilian's 12th league goal of the season set the Toffees on their way to a 2-0 win, their first over a top-six side since January 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea boss laments Jekyll-and-Hyde show in loss to Everton which hurts top-four hopes

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri has accused his side of switching off mentally as Chelsea provided Everton's first top-six scalp in 26 games, a run dating back to January 2017.

Speaking after their 2-0 Premier League loss at Goodison Park on Sunday, the Italian also expressed his fears that a top-four place may be beyond his team if he cannot rectify their "mental block".

He said: "At the moment this is our limit. In my opinion, the first 45 minutes were the best we have played all season, then in the second half, we stopped playing.

"We forgot how to defend, forgot how to counter-attack and that is a problem for us, because even if you don't score, you have to stay in the match."

Chelsea, who have now failed to score in eight of 30 league games, could have been three or four goals up at half-time, and Sarri was perplexed by the collective drop in standards that saw Everton take control of the game after the break.

"We were good up to the last minute of the first half and bad from the first minute of the second," the Blues manager said.

"I'm worried about our mentality, the situation is clear. We were in control of the game, all we had to do was continue, and we could not do that.

  • Premier League talking points

  • 1 MADDISON STARS FROM THE WING

    Brendan Rodgers has not yet been at Leicester for three weeks, but suffice to say, he was not surprised when James Maddison opened the scoring at Burnley with an inch-perfect free kick.

    With the manager hailing him as a "top-level player" before describing his ability at set pieces as "not by accident", the midfielder's efforts were all the more admirable as illness kept him up on Friday night. The 22-year-old also showed his adaptability at Turf Moor, excelling at finding space when cutting infield from his new role on the left.

    2 CHICHARITO THE GAME CHANGER

    The joys of Javier Hernandez have been well documented over the years - he can score goals inside the penalty box and little else.

    Some managers have become frustrated with his limitations, meaning he struggled to be a regular at Manchester United and now West Ham.

    But the Mexico striker, more commonly known as Chicharito, showed his worth as the focal point of the attack, with his brace against Huddersfield changing the dynamic of the game for the hosts.

    3 NEWCASTLE POUNCE IN STOPPAGE TIME

    Rafael Benitez has moulded his Newcastle side into one of the most committed in the league and their never-say-die attitude was reinforced at Bournemouth when they scored a goal in added time in both halves.

    Salomon Rondon's free-kick goal was the result of a counter-attack from a corner when many other teams would have been happy just to clear the ball at that stage.

    Matt Ritchie then smashed in their second to equalise moments before the final whistle, a testament to the battling qualities that should keep the Magpies up. 

    THE GUARDIAN

"It's very difficult for players to explain to me the change. Very difficult for me to explain to you the change.

"If you are asking me about the top four, I would say it depends on whether you are speaking about the first half or the second.

"It will be hard to reach the top four now, but I would not say impossible.

"If we can play like we did in the first half for eight matches, we will give ourselves a chance."

His opposite number Marco Silva was, however, delighted his players had "showed our real selves" in the second half.

The Portuguese also accepted Everton found the initial stages tough going, but played down his role in his team later producing a performance of far greater intensity.

Richarlison opened the scoring in the 49th minute before Gylfi Sigurdsson tucked home the rebound in the 72nd minute after his penalty kick was saved.

The Toffees manager said: "What I said at the interval was simple. I said, in the second half, we just have to do everything different."

Asked about the statistic that Everton's last victory over a "Big Six" opponent came under Ronald Koeman against Manchester City, Silva claimed to be unaware.

He added: "I didn't know it had been so long, but all I want to say is that it cannot happen again. This is too big a club for that to happen."

Separately, Chelsea have lodged an official complaint with Uefa after forward Callum Hudson-Odoi was allegedly subjected to racist abuse late on during their Europa League last-16 victory at Dynamo Kiev last week.

He was apparently on the receiving end of monkey chants close to the final whistle and European football's governing body will be expected to launch a formal probe.

"We wholeheartedly condemn such abhorrent behaviour," a Chelsea spokesman said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2019, with the headline 'Sarri worried by 'mental block''. Print Edition | Subscribe