Willian's situation strange: Sarri

Arsenal goalie Petr Cech saving a penalty from Chelsea's Alvaro Morata during their friendly in Ireland on Wednesday. The Blues conceded in second-half stoppage time to draw 1-1, before losing 6-5 on penalties.
Arsenal goalie Petr Cech saving a penalty from Chelsea's Alvaro Morata during their friendly in Ireland on Wednesday. The Blues conceded in second-half stoppage time to draw 1-1, before losing 6-5 on penalties.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri expressed exasperation at Willian's late return for pre-season training after he watched his Chelsea team go down 6-5 on penalties to Arsenal following a 1-1 friendly draw in Dublin on Wednesday.

The Blues' new manager had set the return date for last Friday, having taken into consideration the winger's involvement at the World Cup with Brazil. They lost in the quarter-finals to Belgium on July 6 but he did not show up.

The midfielder's tardiness has been blamed on passport issues and it is understood he did report to Cobham for training on Wednesday. Yet Sarri made it perfectly clear after the International Champions Cup match that he was unimpressed with the situation.

The winger is a transfer target for Real Madrid, with Manchester United also interested. Barcelona tried to sign him before opting for another Brazilian forward Malcom.

Willian, who will not feature in Sunday's Community Shield against Manchester City, has said that he is happy at Chelsea and is not agitating for a transfer.

"I want to speak to Willian before I answer these questions," Sarri said. "I am not happy about this situation. Is it a strange situation? I think so."

When pressed for an update on forward Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, both also linked to Real, Sarri added: "Not at this moment, no, because I will see them on Saturday for the first time. So I don't know the situation.

"We are talking about top players. Every club wants to keep their top players, we are trying to do it."

It was an eventful night in Dublin as Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette scored a stoppage-time equaliser to set up the shoot-out. Antonio Rudiger headed Chelsea into the lead in the fifth minute.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, back one week early from his post-World Cup break, missed the Blues' first in sudden death, paving the way for Alex Iwobi to win it for the Gunners.

Chelsea's takeway from the game was an electric performance from the 17-year-old winger, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and an evening to forget for striker Alvaro Morata.

Morata watched Petr Cech keep out his weak penalty in the 15th minute but, for him, it was merely the start of the nightmare.

The manner in which his confidence evaporated was shocking and his performance carried worrying echoes of some of those he put in during the second half of last term.

However, the Spaniard became a father to twin boys on Sunday and Sarri suggested that he might have been tired. "I am not worried about Morata," the Italian said.

The clash was also a first meeting for Sarri and his counterpart Unai Emery, the two new managers of their respective clubs.

Arsenal boss Emery was encouraged by what he saw from his team.

"The performances are getting better. I think it's good," the Spaniard said.

"We controlled the match and had good opportunities. The performance was good in terms of finding our best preparation for the start of the competition."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2018, with the headline 'Willian's situation strange: Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe