A capitulation at Arsenal was the moment for Maurizio Sarri to unload pent-up frustration with his Chelsea squad.
Deflecting blame from his own decision-making after the 2-0 loss, Sarri didn’t hold back with a damning critique of his players’ mental fragilities on Saturday after Chelsea’s grip on fourth place in the Premier League was weakened by goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny.
The Italian opened his news conference in English by saying he wanted to speak in his native tongue “to send a message to my players.”
It couldn’t have been clearer from Sarri.
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“I am extremely angry, very angry indeed,” Sarri opened his assessment through a translator. “This defeat was due to our mentality, our mental approach.
“We played against a team that was far more mentally determined than we were. And I can’t accept that. We had a similar issue against Tottenham in the league.”
After that 3-1 loss at Tottenham, Sarri said he thought the players had overcome their problems. Turns out they haven’t.
“It appears this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate,” Sarri said.
“As a group of players they are not particularly aggressive from a mental point of view, they don’t have that kind of ferocity in their mentality and that is something that it down to the type of players they are — their characteristics. That is difficult to change.”
Sarri was far from finished with the outburst that was reminiscent of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who was fired in 2015 over “palpable discord” with his squad.
“This is not a team that is going to be well known for its battling qualities,” the Italian coach continued.
That was clear on a freezing night in north London as Chelsea only managed one shot on target, late in the game when already two goals down.
A victory that dampens the gloom after last weekend’s loss to West Ham, and a lack of transfer activity, means Arsenal remains in fifth place ahead of Manchester United on goal difference, but now only three points behind Chelsea in the fourth Champions League qualification place.
Unai Emery’s side made the most of an intense, attacking start, and Chelsea’s lax defense. Lacazette got on the end of Hector Bellerin’s cross and went past Pedro Rodriguez and Marcos Alonso before netting in the 14th minute.
The hosts extended their lead in the 39th when Koscielny missed his header trying to meet a lofted ball from Sokratis but his shoulder diverted it into the net.
It helped to secure Arsenal’s second league win over Chelsea in 15 league meetings, stretching back into Arsene Wenger’s reign which ended in May.
But there was a setback in the second half when Bellerin was carried off on a stretcher.