Blues hope to reignite stuttering season

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, LONDON

Feb 2, 2019-

Cesar Azpilicueta hopes Maurizio Sarri’s decision to hold a lengthy inquest after Chelsea’s humiliating defeat at Bournemouth can reignite their stuttering season as they prepare to host bottom club Huddersfield.

Sarri’s side were crushed 4-0 on Wednesday in a shocking setback that was Chelsea’s heaviest Premier League loss since 1996. Not for the first time this season, Chelsea paid the price for failing to turn first half possession into goals, collapsing after the interval as Bournemouth punished the sloppy defending of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger.

Chelsea’s fifth defeat in their past 12 league games cost the west Londoners their place in the top four as Arsenal moved above them on goals scored and Sarri, who only arrived from Napoli in July, is now reportedly fighting for his job. The furious Italian asked his backroom staff to leave the Chelsea dressing room at Dean Court as he staged a 40-minute post-mortem alone with his squad.

Chelsea captain Azpilicueta admitted tempers had frayed because the performance was so far below the expected standard for the 2016-17 Premier League champions. But the right-back hopes the tense session serves as a wake-up call for the rest of the season. “Afterwards we spoke as men between the manager and the players,” said Azpilicueta. “It was a very tough result after two wins in the cup... To lose 4-0 as Chelsea players is unacceptable. To drop back again is really frustrating,” he added. “We are very angry. It is unacceptable for Chelsea and we have to find the solutions.”

Sarri has risked losing the backing of his players with several scathing assessments of their displays this season. But the 60-year-old, yet to win major trophy in his managerial career, conceded he might also be to blame as he admitted he needs to find a better way to motivate his stars. While it might be too soon for Sarri to start worrying about being sacked, he desperately needs a repeat of the kind of solid form Chelsea showed during the 18-game unbeaten run that marked the start of his reign.

Since then, Sarri has come under fire from Chelsea fans—who chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at him when he took off new striker Gonzalo Higuain against Bournemouth. Playing Eden Hazard out of position as a forward and sticking with Jorginho as a defensive midfielder instead of the proven N’Golo Kante have been the two biggest issues with Sarri’s tactics so far.

Higuain’s rusty display in his first league start since his loan move from Juventus was not encouraging either, but he should get another chance to open his goalscoring account against rock-bottom Huddersfield, who will be playing their second game under new boss Jan Siewert. As the race to qualify for the Champions League grows tighter, with sixth-placed Manchester United only two points behind Chelsea, Azpilicueta knows every match is crucial to their European ambitions.

“It is very tight. Two weeks ago we were in a better position. We have put ourselves at risk,” he said. “We are in trouble after dropping six points in the last two games. It’s become harder but we have to get the three points on Saturday, there is no other option. The target is to qualify. The minimum we should do is qualify for the Champions League.”

Published: 02-02-2019 12:33

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