Player Mentality – The Blame Game

First and foremost, everyone affiliated with Chelsea Football Club has contributed in some capacity to the dire situation the club currently finds itself in. Everyone. This is not about SarriIn or SarriOut, I am not advocating for either here.

The “Blame Game” on Twitter as it has now be donned, is a tedious episode of fans picking a single party to solely blame for the troubles the West London club finds itself in, inviting toxic, needless arguments into our fanbase, which are the last thing the club needs right now. As subtly mentioned above, I believe there are numerous parties who are responsible for the inconsistencies of this season. Roman Abramovich, Marina Granovskaia, and Maurizio Sarri all have made mistakes in these past months which are now replicated on the field. However, for me, the players and their mentality must take the brunt of the blame.

methode-sundaytimes-prod-web-bin-2331491a-1c3c-11e9-9956-6d24297c3fcd Source – thetimes.co.uk

Our last game was a 2-0 loss against Everton. One of which was a particularly frustrating state of affairs for Chelsea fans, and one which triggered the writing of this article. I wanted to highlight and support my viewpoint using this game in particular.

Sarri rotated the starting 11, bringing in Alonso for Emerson, and Barkley for Kovacic. Personally, I wasn’t too disgruntled with either decision and could see why Sarri had done it after Thursday’s selection. Alonso and Barkley both came in to provide an attacking threat, despite their obvious drawbacks on the defensive side. Many have asked for rotation despite Sarri’s stubbornness, and they got it. Despite this, Chelsea’s squad as an entirety should be good enough to be beating Everton, especially with their recent form. Sarri wanted to go on the front foot early and finish the game as quickly as possible. Chelsea did exactly that, taking full control of the game early, dictating possession, and creating chance after chance in the first half. If the players had taken these chances, even just a couple of them (of which were high-quality chances) the game could have been over before HT.

Instead, the team came in at 0-0, somewhat frustrated. Sarri sent the same team out the second half, and things capitulated early. Poor defending from a set-piece, Everton have their first chance and take it. Whilst this highlights further our deficiencies at the back, it also lacks concentration and composure from the players, both falling in the mentality hemisphere of things. After this goal went in, Chelsea wobbled, failed to regain control, and never looked comfortable. Another goal came from a rebound off a cheap penalty given away from Marcos Alonso. 2-0, game over. Chelsea’s players were awfully slow/nonchalant in the second half, individual mistakes cost us once again, and a mental breakdown was clear to see.

everton-chelsea-170319tSource – The Standard

In this game alone, a variety of events occurred which highlighted the players lacking responsibility and consistency, which they have to shoulder the blame for. The lack of killer instinct in the final third, the laid-back approach in the second half, the mental lapses that culminated into conceding goals, the lack of fight/leadership in the side, and more. Sarri, who had his faults also, had this to say after the game:

‘The situation is clear,’ he said. ‘We played probably the best 45 minutes of the season and then suddenly at the beginning of the second half we stopped playing, without defending, so we were in trouble.

‘It is not a physical problem because if you have that you go down gradually, not in one second. We played very well until the last minute of the first half and then suddenly very badly at the first minute of the second half. It is difficult for the players to explain to me the change and difficult for me to explain the change, but it is probably a mental block I think.’

He was spot on, especially with the second paragraph. You may be thinking, this sounds familiar? You’re right…

Jose Mourinho’s damning final verdict on some of the Chelsea players who cost him his job is that they are ‘mentally weak’.

“Clearly it’s an attitude perspective of some individuals. . . and when you have individuals with that unstable attitude in terms of motivation, desire and commitment you will pay.”

He went on to say that his squad lacks the mental toughness of ‘serial champions’ who repeatedly perform at their best, season upon season to end up winning multiple titles:

“We have 25 champions from last year – but serial champions in this squad, how many do we have?”

Even Antonio Conte, Sarri’s predecessor, someone who was well-known for instilling his warrior-like mentality into his teams, questioned the mindset of Chelsea’s players during his time at the club, particularly towards the end of his reign. If you look at the final quote above from Jose Mourinho and compare it with Chelsea’s history of “Yo-Yo” success in recent years, you will see a correlation.

antonio-conte-jose-mourinho-cropped_fmgtcdtanamw1k5tsp5ii1col.jpgSource – caughtoffside.com

A specified round-up here for you, on why player mentality is a fundamental issue:

  • Sarri has put a system in place. It has shown to have worked (Cue 18 game unbeaten run). This has not changed, the player’s performances have.
  • Sarri has shown signs of rotation in previous weeks, and the inconsistencies still lay bare. The squad isn’t good enough, no matter who is chosen in the starting XI
  • Three top-level coaches have cited “Weak mentality” in their press conferences in previous years. Coincidence?
  • Consistent missing of chances, hitting the woodwork a league-high 19 times. The players are those on the field, they must execute.
  • The at-times pedestrian side-to-side passing and lack of attacking creativity come from a lack of execution from the players. Hence why Sarri has said at numerous times “I didn’t see my football today.”
  • When things are going well and Chelsea are winning, the players are happy with the style and signing Sarri praises. However, whenever we are nullified by the opposition, or losing, the team’s composure disappears, and the weak mentality from the player’s sets in.

I repeat, everyone within the club is to blame for the recent shortcomings at Chelsea Football Club. Mistakes are being made all across the board, each culminating into a larger mess. Nonetheless, I believe the squad needs to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and remember the club of whom they are representing. Chelsea Football Club.

Written by Dan McCarthy – @maccasport

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