The Blues boss still hasn’t told his players who will be his captain for next season as he sets his sights on solving another conundrum
Maurizio Sarri is fascinated by Chelsea’s ability to one season compete for a title and then collapse the year after, but the manager stopped short of saying it was an attitude issue that needs resolving.
Chelsea have finished tenth and fifth in their seasons after winning their Premier League titles in the last four years, finishing 47 and 23 points below their champion tally with a similar squad in both seasons to the year before.
Fresh off the back of praising Eden Hazard and saying that he is still only playing at 70-80 per cent of his potential, Sarri says that solving Chelsea’s erratic title challenges is something that has come to interest him.
“We want to win. But the history of this club is a little bit strange,” Sarri told reporters at Cobham Training Centre. “14/15, I think 87 points. 15/16 50 points. That’s very strange, with the same coach and the same group. Then 93 points (in 16/17), then 70 points last season with the same coach and group.
“So the numbers of this group are a little bit strange. I need to understand why. I am studying. I think that these numbers tell us something. I don’t know what, at the moment. But I want to understand and I want to help my players to be at the same level.
“Maybe if you are lucky or unlucky, you can gain 85 points or 80, but the difference in one season is 43 points! I have to understand why. Then, if I am able to do it, I have to help my players be at the same level for a long period.
“I don’t know. I don’t know [if the players have an attitude problem], because they usually have training very well with continuity. So the attitude is good. There is probably something from the mental point of view. I have to understand it.”
The talk of consistency is a common theme in Sarri’s press conferences and he is a manager that prefers to maintain a constant style of play, without making any major alterations depending on the opposition.
His talk has extended to his players, where he is challenging himself to turn Hazard into the world’s best footballer. Sarri thinks that Hazard has the motivation and hunger to match the challenge of winning the Ballon d’Or and other major individual awards in football.
“I think so. I think so, but I have to find the right way,” Sarri added. “No more, no more. Hazard is on the pitch every day. I think he can do more in continuity, in intensity… not only in physical intensity, but in the mental intensity. So I have to try to improve him because my feeling is he can improve more.”
“So I want to try and improve him. To try and give him the chance to arrive at his 100% because my feeling is, now, he’s only at 80%. So I want to help him to be the best player in the world.”
Sarri also thinks that Liverpool are ready to win the Premier League or Champions League this season, he even fancies them to do it ahead of last season’s champions Manchester City.
He thinks that Liverpool might be hungrier to achieve the title than the 100 point club, who have also started the season well but sit in between Chelsea and Liverpool in the table in second place.
“I don’t know. I think that City are a very, very, very good team,” he explained. “Maybe they are the best at the moment. But I think that Liverpool want to win more, I think. So the determination of Liverpool could be higher. Maybe, I don’t know. It’s only my opinion.”
Sarri clearly sees his side as big outsiders to win the Premier League this season, despite the fact a win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday could see his team top the table. He doesn’t see a need to go into the transfer market to catch up his perceived gap and he thinks he can close it on the training ground.
“I think that the market is not the only solution,” he said. “I think we need the team only to work. I think we can improve by working every day. So it’s only a question of time. Time and work. Maybe the market, sometimes, is the solution. But if you need only one player in one position, you can improve the quality not only with the market.
“I think we have to wait. We have to see the match of tomorrow. Because the other match was unusual. We have changed eight or nine players. They have changed eight players, I think. So we have to wait for the match tomorrow, and then we will see our position compared to the level of Liverpool.
“Liverpool, at the moment, and City are the top level in England. Maybe in Europe. So I am waiting for tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s captaincy decision remains unresolved, despite Sarri saying he would announce it after the last international break. Sarri appears to have made his mind up but he has yet to communicate it sufficiently to his players to announce to the world.
Cesar Azpilicueta has been primarily wearing the armband this season, but Eden Hazard is also thought to be in the reckoning with Gary Cahill still officially being regarded as the club captain. He added that the announcement could come in the next seven days.
” I want to speak with my club face to face before I tell you my decision,” he said. “I think it’s right the club knows my decision before the journalists. It has been impossible in the last two or three weeks, but I think it will be possible next week.”