Chelsea have a problem with ‘blackouts’, manager Morrie Sarri claims as he faces the toughest game of his career at Stamford Bridge – the visit of Manchester City on Saturday afternoon.
Losing to Wolves in midweek was hardly the ideal preparation for a clash with his old pal and adversary Pep Guardiola – particularly as Sarri is struggling to pinpoint exactly why his team lost at Molineux.
At the pre-match press conference at the Cobham training ground, Sarri described City as “maybe the best team in Europe”, but said that in a 90-minute match anything could happen.
“We have a problem to manage the match,” he said. “[Against Wolves] we played well for 55 or 60 minutes, then went into blackout. We were a little bit unlucky; our opponents had two shots on target and we conceded two goals.
“We have to work to reduce the gap [with City]. We’re improving, but they’re improving also. We started the season well, and we have to face any difficulties; we have to try to solve them, problem by problem, day by day.”
Sarri said that the team had no particular injury concerns ahead of the 5.30pm kick-off match, but he refused to admit that N’Golo Kante is struggling because he was being played out of his preferred position, on the grounds that no such criticism was made while Chelsea were on their recent long unbeaten run.
“In the last match [against Wolves], when there was the first difficulty, we didn’t react as a team, but as 11 players in 11 different ways. We need a collective target to give us motivation, which gives us determination. In some [players] we lack determination,” he said.
So what’s his approach to beating Manchester City? “Against Guardiola I’ve lost every match… so you have to ask someone else,” he laughed.
“We have to believe in it. When you change the way of playing, you also have to change the way of thinking in 25 minds. You can’t change the mentality in one day; you can change maybe 1% a week. In the summer Pep told me that the first season is very difficult in England, and it’s very difficult to improve 20 players… you have to work on 14 or 15 players. Will I be given time? Well, what would have happened if Guardiola had been given no time at City!”
Sarri conceded that he may have to buy one new player in the January transfer window – but only one. And he refused to be drawn on which position he felt needed bolstering, adding that before he made a final decision he would have to fully assess the overall improvement across his squad.
Asked if Marcos Alonso was showing signs of tiredness, Sarri admitted that the winger “didn’t play very well” against Fulham last weekend, but insisted: “He’s not tired. He wasn’t in the national team in the international break, or playing in the Europa League or the League Cup.”