Maurizio Sarri is not a happy Chelsea manager.
After a promising start to life at Stamford Bridge, which included reaching November before tasting his first Premier League defeat, Sarri has been brought back down to earth with a bang.
Chelsea were humbled 2-0 against Arsenal on Saturday, opening up the race for the top four when they could have put themselves clear with a win.
The 2-0 scoreline on its own may not sound too bad, but the Blues were toothless at the Emirates Stadium and could have been on the receiving end of a bigger hiding had more of Arsenal’s players been at the races.
Following the defeat, Sarri did not hold back on his players, telling reporters: “I’m really angry about the approach that we adopted today.
“It’s an approach we can’t really accept. I have to say, I’m extremely angry. Very angry indeed. This defeat was due to our mentality, more than anything else. This is something I can’t accept.
“This group of players are extremely difficult to motivate.”
Eight Chelsea players who do not look to have a future under Maurizio Sarri – https://t.co/kdW0DV7EOX
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 20, 2019
The comment drew memories of Chelsea managers past, including Jose Mourinho, who had once accused his Blues players of betrayal.
Though Sarri did not go as far as that, the Italian was evidently not happy with his current crop of players. Some have been downright bad, while others like David Luiz have shown both their good and bad sides.
But who are these players Sarri may be finding difficult to motivate? And which Chelsea stars are letting the Italian down? Read on to find Squawka’s take on the Stamford Bridge situation.
Marcos Alonso was wonderful for Chelsea when playing as a wing-back under Antonio Conte, helping the Blues to the 2016/17 Premier League title.
When Conte left and Sarri came in during the summer, there were murmurings of Alonso not being good enough as a full-back to implement Sarrismo.
But, in the early stages of the season, Sarri hailed his left-back as potentially one of the best in Europe after he scored one and recorded two assists in the first four games.
And Alonso’s future at Chelsea was confirmed when he signed a new long-term contract in October 2018. The Spaniard is very good at attacking, but most of the time he lets Sarri down in his defensive abilities.
With his wing-back frame of mind, Alonso often finds himself high up the pitch leaving gaps for Chelsea’s opponents to exploit. Against Arsenal, the Spaniard had a torrid time against Alexandre Lacazette and Hector Bellerin, with a lot of the Gunners’ attacking play coming down his wing.
Alonso has also found himself shifting to a centre-forward role when Chelsea are chasing games, due to his height, but once more this opens up too much space for the Blues to be countered.
When Jorginho followed Sarri from Napoli to Chelsea in the summer, his signing was heralded as one of the transfer window’s best bits of business.
Early on his in Chelsea career the Italian was breaking passing records and looked to be key in a potential chase for the Premier League title.
But opposition teams have clocked on to just how important Jorginho is to Sarrismo, finding that by nullifying the Italian they can stop Chelsea.
Jorginho had arguably his worst game in a Chelsea shirt this season against Arsenal, with Aaron Ramsey perfectly halting the Italian’s passing game.
The Chelsea midfielder also recorded his third-lowest passing accuracy of the season with 85% at the Emirates. Only against Tottenham and Southampton has the Italian recorded lower – both 84.31% and on both occasions Chelsea lost.
Throughout the season as a whole, Jorginho has attempted 2,077 passes – more than any other player in the Premier League – but only 251 of those have been into the final third with a further 846 in his own half.
Though Jorginho’s role is not to be creator in Sarrismo, the Italian’s lack of creativity is hurting Chelsea and Sarri is beginning to realise this.
There’s no denying Mateo Kovacic is a very capable midfielder, as he has proven at points this season.
But the Croatian is not attacking enough to thrive in the left side of Chelsea’s central midfield.
At the heart of Sarrismo is a three-man midfield, with each player having very different roles. The deepest, Jorginho, is responsible for dropping alongside the defence to help move the ball out from the back. On the right, a box-to-box midfielder of sorts who must contribute equally in defence and attack.
The left-sided midfielder, in most cases this season, Kovacic, has attacking freedom to get forward and push Sarri’s team towards goal linking up with the left-back and left winger.
And while he has done well enough at times, recording two assists, Kovacic is not creative enough to make up for the lack of creativity Jorginho brings to the side.
Of the Croatian’s 906 completed passes in the Premier League this season, only 99 have been into the final third, with just 19 chances created – though he has recorded two assists.
Kovacic is also yet to complete a Premier League game for Chelsea this season, often going off around the hour mark as he continues to adapt to consistent starts.
Against Arsenal, Kovacic was virtually non-existent, unable to help Chelsea push up the pitch when they most needed him before being replaced by Ross Barkley.
Both Sarri and Eden Hazard are guilty of letting each other down this season.
Hazard enjoyed a brilliant start to the season which had led Sarri to challenge the Belgian to score 40 goals.
But he has since slowed down to walking pace, especially in recent weeks with Sarri playing him as a false nine.
Against Arsenal, Hazard was particularly poor, hardly getting into the game in an effective manner, looking almost fed up with the position he has been played in.
The Belgian has previously been accused of disrespecting the false No.9 role, with Tony Cascarino lamenting Hazard’s role in Chelsea’s narrow win over Newcastle.
He said: “I went to Chelsea on Saturday and Eden Hazard disrespected the false No.9 role. He was flicking everything that came his way with no regard for team play.
“He’s normally the one running on to the flicks but when you are asked to do a job for the team, do it properly.
“He’s a wonderful player but I wasn’t impressed, it was like a Harlem Globetrotters approach.”
Then there’s the Real Madrid links, with Hazard looking likely to leave Chelsea in the summer regardless of what Chelsea achieve this season.
Maybe the Belgian is already thinking of Los Blancos?
Willian has been almost ever-present under Sarri this season, with the manager clearly earmarking the Brazilian as one of the club’s better wingers.
But Willian is yet to truly repay that faith with just five goals and five assists in 33 appearances playing as both a left and right winger.
On the right, Willian leaves his position far too much for Sarrismo to work, cutting into the centre of the pitch rather than stretching play down the flanks.
While on the left, the Brazilian tends to be too selfish, going for goal himself when there is a better option for the team.
Willian has also been guilty of holding up play too much due to his lack of confidence in Alvaro Morata when the Spaniard has been playing, allowing opposition defenders to get back and stop Chelsea’s attacker.
The Brazilian may have created the third-most chances in the Premier League this season with 55, but only seven of those have been big chances while he has three assists to his name.
Often Kovacic’s replacement in matches, Ross Barkley has not lived up to the high expectations he put on himself at the start of the season.
After struggling for game time under Conte, Barkley looked to be turning his Chelsea career around with a spell of three goals and three assists in three Premier League games in October.
But the 25-year-old has not been involved in a goal since then, whether starting or coming on as a substitute.
With Ruben Loftus-Cheek out injured, Barkley has been one of Sarri’s few attacking options to bring on from the bench in recent weeks but has not looked like troubling opposition defences.
The confidence he had in October looks gone once more, and the former Evertonian is again too hesitant on the ball around the opposition area, not capable of picking out the killer pass or testing the goalkeeper with a shot of his own.
Though this is partly down to Sarri not giving him enough time on the pitch, Barkley has not done enough to earn a start in this Chelsea team.
Goals have been a serious problem for Chelsea this season, with the Blues looking far too toothless in attack for their fans’ liking.
Part of the problem has been down to the form of Morata, who looks set to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge after just 18 months.
The Spaniard has never really looked the part since joining from Real Madrid in 2017, and has scored just nine goals in 24 appearances this season – with five coming in the Premier League.
Morata’s mentality has been called into question by Sarri, who compared him to the “mentally fragile” former Empoli striker Riccardo Saponara, and the forward often looks bereft of confidence even when scoring.
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) January 20, 2019
This has been noted by his team-mates too with Chelsea’s wingers often opting to slow play down or go for goal themselves despite Morata being in a positive position, out of a lack of confidence in their striker.
The Spaniard has also failed to fully acclimatise himself to the English game and is still unable to hold the ball up against the tougher defenders, halting Chelsea attacks before they even begin.
Though Olivier Giroud has been seen as superior to Morata as Chelsea’s main striker, the Frenchman still leaves Sarri wanting when on the pitch.
Giroud is the perfect target man to link up with Hazard, but the 32-year-old is far too slow to fully help with Sarrismo.
It’s not his fault, obviously, but Giroud cannot contribute enough when Chelsea try to break fast to expose gaps in opposition defences.
The Frenchman has also been seen as Sarri’s last-chance striker in recent weeks with the false No.9 role not working, but Giroud has been unable to bring about the change his manager desires.
Giroud has also been particularly poor in front of goal with just five goals in all competitions this season – four of which have been in the Europa League.
The Frenchman’s sole Premier League goal came in Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at Tottenham back in November, which is nowhere near good enough for a striker at a top-six side.