Chelsea players 'extremely difficult to motivate' - Maurizio Sarri
LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri accused his Chelsea players of being "extremely difficult to motivate" in an astonishing public attack after their limp 2-0 loss against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
First-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny gave the Gunners a comfortable lead they never looked like relinquishing against a stale Chelsea side who failed to register a shot on target until the 82nd minute.
Taking the unusual decision to conduct his post-match news conference in his native Italian, Sarri insisted his players' mental fragilities were more responsible for Arsenal's win than his tactical approach, likening the situation to their comprehensive 3-1 defeat against Tottenham at Wembley in November.
"I prefer to speak Italian first of all because I want to send a message to my players, and I want my message to be very clear," Sarri said via translator. "I don't want to make mistakes with my English.
"I have to say that 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 which mentally was far more determined than we were. And this is something I can't accept.
"We had a similar issue in the league game at Tottenham. We spoke a great deal about that loss and our approach at the time, and I spoke to the players, and I thought we'd overcome this issue.
"But it appears we still have this issue and we still seem to lack sufficient motivation and being mentally solid and our determination. So I'm not happy, I'm really not happy.
"I'd prefer to come in to the press room, be in the changing room and speak to the players and speak to you now, to talk about the tactics, about why we lost from a tactical point of view, but the fact of the matter is it appears this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate."
Chelsea's defeat means Arsenal and a resurgent Manchester United have both closed to within three points of them in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League this weekend, and Sarri insisted his players must find a way to overcome their psychological problems if they want to succeed.
"A player at this level can't be afraid to face up to their own responsibilities, or coming to talk to the coach about issues that might arise or mistakes that have been made," he added. "If any player were afraid of that, they shouldn't be playing at this level in the first place.
"I think the best thing that can happen is that the players and I talk very openly. We have to talk openly about what's happening. I'm the person responsible for the team, of course.
"So that means we need to discuss the matters, we have to talk about issues, and it's important my players have the attitude I'm asking them to have. If they don't have that, then maybe they shouldn't be playing at this level."
But despite his fierce public criticism of his players, Sarri insisted he has not wavered in his determination to turn the situation around.
Asked if he is the man to revive Chelsea, he replied: "Yes, absolutely. I'm very aware of the fact this [team] is never going to be a team well known for its battling and fighting qualities. From a technical point of view, those aren't the characteristics that we have.
"But what we need to become is a team capable of adapting, a team that can perhaps suffer for 10 to 15 minutes during the game but then play our own football. We didn't play our own football.
"We didn't play our own football in a sense that... for example, our defending ended up with us running backwards rather than pressing high up the pitch. We are a team that should be playing one or two touches, instead at some stages we were playing with seven or eight.
"This is the sort of thing that we don't want to happen. We want to play our own football and we are going to have to try and change that."
Asked in the mixed zone about Chelsea's struggles to create chances against Arsenal, centre-back David Luiz highlighted the need for the entire team to improve, not only the players up front.
"We have to improve and when I speak about improving I speak not only about the forward but the whole team," he said. "The build-up begins with Kepa. We have had a few games in which we have struggled to score goals so we must have the humility to improve and to work more."