Maurizio Sarri’s fairly remarkable rant after Chelsea’s defeat to Arsenal was surprising in some respects, but not quite so much if you’ve been listening to him over the past couple of months.
This has been brewing. Sarri has complained a number of times that his players have found it strangely difficult to concentrate for a full game, switching off after an hour and either letting points slip or getting extremely close to doing so. Clearly he has been frustrated for a while, but it’s worth considering what we might have made of his postmatch news conference if it had come from one of his predecessors.
Sarri and Jose Mourinho are clearly wildly different personalities, but declaring that his players are “extremely difficult to motivate” after a big defeat feels like a deflection tactic straight out of the Mourinho playbook, an excuse that ultimately exposes his own failings as much as those of his players. Sarri had a tough task, starting late into preseason and with an imbalanced squad, but making sure his players are paying attention for most of the game feels like one of the more straightforward tasks a manager can have.
Perhaps this itself is an attempted motivation tactic, but if so it’s a gamble, even if Sarri doesn’t agree. “I don’t think it is risky,” he said. “These guys have a sensible head on their shoulders. … I said the players are difficult to motivate but by the same token there are players who are sensible, who will listen and won’t take it the wrong way.”
He had better hope he is right.
Belated tactical revelation of the weekend
When Unai Emery arrived at Arsenal, one of the tactical considerations he had to mull over was how to best use Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, ideally figuring out how to get them in the same team. It’s a shame that Emery seems finally to have settled on playing the Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey behind them both, just too late to keep the Welshman for the long-term, while simultaneously being an indication of how Arsenal’s attempt at renovating their decision-making structure has backfired.
Goal of the weekend
From a technical point of view almost every goal scored this weekend was better than Laurent Koscielny’s, looping in off his shoulder against Chelsea. But after the year he has had, watching France win the World Cup from a treatment table and losing nine months at a stage of his career when time is precious, we can allow a little sentiment.
Retro performance of the weekend
Earlier in the season, when Liverpool were winning games without producing scintillating football, Jurgen Klopp would insist that his team weren’t becoming boring, just that they were more mature. No more madcap, “you score three, we score four” wins, just nice, sensible, two to nothings.
Against Crystal Palace they returned to last season’s form, so you wonder whether this was just a brief interlude or a slide back to their old ways. They will hope it’s the former, but the rest of us might yearn for the latter.