There was a moment during the Arsenal match on Saturday evening which stood out for me, and it has left a feeling of real dismay towards the current Chelsea side. It wasn’t any of the casually misplaced passes, it wasn’t the greying Laurent Koscielny ghosting into the box unmarked, and it wasn’t our worryingly toothless attacking play. It was a moment in the second half picked up by the TV cameras where Maurizio Sarri threw his arms forward urging his players to follow his instructions and press the comfortable Arsenal backline, with a combined expression of frustration and bemusement etched across his face. It was an image of desperation.
The public anger shown by Sarri in the post match interview confirmed his frustrations over his team’s lack of desire. He has questioned this before, most notably after the excellent 2-0 win over Manchester City, as the Italian clearly sees a group of players that are coasting. After taking over a side that had seemingly had enough of Antonio Conte’s defensive approach, Sarri must have been expecting players more eager to listen. Initially, at the start of the season, the response was good with the players instantly enjoying the increase in possession and opportunity to show off their creative flair. However, now the honeymoon is over the work rate has slowed and Sarri finds himself struggling to find the will to win within his players – the strong words on Saturday most likely a sign that the manager’s patience is at its limit.
The issue of motivation and playing for the manager has become a running theme over the last few years at Chelsea. Our last two managers, albeit fiery characters, have seen the dressing room turn on them in the most sinister of ways – by downing their tools just one season after league success. It’s as if the players aren’t prepared to be pushed out of their comfort zones or do anything more than required. This season, after a promising start, it seems like the Chelsea players have seen Manchester City and Liverpool race away and have decided to kick back. Sarri, on the other hand, is keen to instil his ideas and make his mark at his biggest ever job, and his tenacity is clearly not being matched.
One could argue that motivation has become more prevalent of a problem as our ‘old guard’ began to leave the club, the importance of playing for the fans and the club itself possibly becoming less of a worry amongst our current crop of players. A few years back there was a strong dressing room that definitely would have needed winning over, but the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba were ambitious, wholehearted footballers – they were above sulking and shrinking on match day. In this current team, I’d argue that just Azpilicueta, Kante, Pedro and Ross Barkley are the four players who do show an honest commitment and pride of wearing the shirt every game.
The constant flirtation by star man Eden Hazard with Real Madrid doesn’t help this general feeling of half-baked motivation within the Chelsea squad. Although an immense talent, Hazard has the potential to blow hot and cold when he chooses; and when the man that a team relies on has a quite casual, laissez-faire attitude it can filter into the rest of team, subduing the battling spirit needed to grind out matches. It’s a cliché, but 100% effort should be a minimum expectation in football; and as a fan, poor tactics and footballing quality are much easier forgiven than meek efforts.
Source – Marca
Question marks do remain over our current tactics and personnel; there is a rigidness and a couple of ‘square pegs in round holes’ situations. However Maurizio Sarri has merely inherited a squad and is a determined to mould it into his own image; and just half a season into his Chelsea tenure it seems to me that Sarri has quickly uncovered a lazy, arrogant undercurrent at Chelsea, and has decided that this low motivation is the root cause of many of the on-the-pitch issues. We as fans won’t know this for sure but, after all, there’s no smoke without fire.