Angry Sarri slams mentally weak Blues
Pundits disagree with public bashing; Chelsea manager has to share some blame
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri labelled his players mentally weak and "difficult to motivate" after losing 2-0 at Arsenal in a toothless performance yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The Gunners blew the race for a top-four English Premier League finish wide open as goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny closed Arsenal and Manchester United to within three points of Chelsea in fourth, AFP reported.
"I'm extremely angry, very angry indeed. This defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else, our mental approach. We played against a team more determined than we were and I can't accept that," said Sarri, who chose to speak through a translator in his native Italian to clearly explain the scale of his frustration.
"The fact is it appears this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate."
Chelsea's fourth defeat in 11 league games started with a 3-1 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in November and yesterday's performance was horribly reminiscent of that night at Wembley.
"We had a similar issue in the league game at Tottenham," Sarri continued.
"We still seem to lack sufficient motivation, and being mentally solid and our determination."
Chelsea enjoyed 64 per cent possession, but had just one shot on target to again question Sarri's decision to start without a recognised striker with Eden Hazard's impact limited in a central role. However, Sarri insisted it was his players' attitude and not his system that was the problem.
"When one team are more determined than the other, you can't really talk about tactics," he said.
"From a technical point of view, both teams are on the same level, but they were more determined. Tactics don't come into it. Their high level of motivation was obvious throughout, particularly in both penalty areas."
Pundit Rio Ferdinand said that it was unsettling to hear Sarri question his team's motivation, as big teams are expected to be pumped up for the big games.
"This is a huge cause for concern - to say that your team are lacking in motivation, especially in big games," said the former Manchester United defender on BT Sport.
"For these games, you should wake up, bounce out of bed and fly out on to the pitch ready to go. You don't need a team talk... As soon as they came out, they didn't look up for it. They looked lethargic."
Ferdinand also added that the Chelsea players would have taken his rant on board, had he shouldered some of the responsibility, after all, Sarri has been playing Hazard and N'Golo Kante out of position.
"If I were in that dressing room now and he had come out and hammered the players, but said, 'on the other hand, I am getting a few things wrong as well'. Then, I am going to address my mistakes and get them right," Ferdinand said.
"He would have everyone in that dressing room on side, saying you know what, he is right. We didn't play right.
"Tactically there are a few things not right in this team, two basic things, his two best players playing in the wrong positions. That's down to him.
"If he took some sort of responsibility, he would have some sort of chance."
Fellow pundit Jermaine Jenas spoke about the massive risk Sarri has taken in publicly bashing his players.
Said the former Tottenham midfielder on BT Sport: "I don't really get doing it in public. It is a massive gamble. He is protecting himself, that's one part of it I don't like. You are saying, you, you, you. Where is the collective team in that?
"You win together, you lose together. That is his team and whatever they are doing in training is preparing them for that game, so he has to assume some responsibility himself.
"Whatever he is saying, he has to put on his head as well. I think he is right, by the way, but say it in the dressing room."
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Unai Emery lauded his side's greater desire to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat by West Ham the previous weekend.
"We needed today to run more than them," he said.
"The first idea today we were speaking (about) was we needed to run to recover the ball quickly...
"With their structure, it is very clear and we worked to do the pressing."
Emery also said that Hector Bellerin could have suffered an "important" knee injury, after the 23-year-old was carried off on a stretcher in the 72nd minute and added that "first impressions are not positive".