Cesar Azpilicueta has revealed Chelsea players and manager Maurizio Sarri “spoke like men” after a lengthy dressing room debrief following their heavy defeat at Bournemouth.
The Cherries ran roughshod over the Chelsea defence in the second half of Wednesday’s Premier League game at the Vitality Stadium to secure a 4-0 win.
After heading in goalless at the interval, Joshua King struck twice while further goals from David Brooks and Charlie Daniels sealed a memorable victory for Eddie Howe’s side and condemned the Blues to their worst league defeat in 23 years.
Sarri asked his backroom staff to leave the away dressing room to discuss the second-half capitulation alone with his squad, but admitted afterwards that he was still none the wiser as to why his side under-performed.
“Afterwards we spoke as men between the manager and the players,” Azpilicueta told the club’s official website.
“We are very angry. It is unacceptable for Chelsea and we have to find the solutions.
“Conceding four goals is unacceptable, and we are very angry with that. We expected another result. To lose 4-0 as Chelsea players is unacceptable.
‘We spoke and in three days’ time we have another game. We have to be more consistent because 10 days ago we lost against Arsenal, we had a really bad game there, then we played two good games in the cup. To drop back again is really frustrating.”
The manner of the defeat means Chelsea drop out of the top four, with London rivals Arsenal taking their place by virtue of goals scored.
Bottom club Huddersfield are the visitors to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with Azpilicueta admitting the game has taken on significant importance for Sarri’s men.
“It (the battle for the top four) is very tight,” he added.
“Two weeks ago we were in a better position. We have put ourselves at risk. 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. It’s very important, the minimum Chelsea require, and we will fight hard to get that position.”
While Bournemouth’s attacking play led to the Chelsea inquest, their defence also earned praise from manager Eddie Howe.
Having kept just two clean sheets since October, Howe saw his side keep out West Ham in a recent 2-0 win before another fine display against Chelsea, with centre-back Nathan Ake insisting that has to be the benchmark moving forward.
“I think you can imagine it was very good, everyone is delighted,” he said.
“For sure this goes in the history books of the club, everyone fought really well. We had to make sure we kept a clean sheet and we did.
“I think the whole team knew at one point we were just going to get it again, our team is good enough to do that. We have been through a tough spell..we just have to keep it going now.”
Chelsea lost 4-0 at Bournemouth on Wednesday for their biggest Premier League defeat in more than 22 years.
The Blues are now fifth, trailing Arsenal on goal difference in the bid for Champions League qualification, after a fifth loss in 12 Premier League games.
Press Association Sport’s Chelsea reporter Matt McGeehan takes a look at what’s happening at Stamford Bridge.
Yes, Chelsea lost in humiliating circumstances at Bournemouth, almost a year to the day since a 3-0 home defeat to the Cherries.
But Maurizio Sarri’s side are in the February 24 Carabao Cup final against Manchester City and play Sweden’s Malmo in the knockout stages of the Europa League. The tournament winners qualify for the Champions League.
The Blues were unbeaten in their first 18 competitive games under Sarri, whose appointment came late; it was his predecessor Antonio Conte who began pre-season as Chelsea boss before being sacked.
Sorry Sarri bemused by players
Sarri apologised to the Chelsea supporters after another inept performance, swiftly following his angry criticism of his Chelsea players after the 2-0 loss at Arsenal.
Chelsea’s ponderous possession-based football has appeared vulnerable to a defeat such as this for some time – the undefeated sequence masked many issues – but few expected it to happen at Bournemouth.
Sarri, who held a lengthy dressing room inquest at Bournemouth, has time and again questioned the mentality of his players and that he cannot motivate them. That is a bizarre admission when it is his role.
Chelsea appear lacking in leaders and Eden Hazard blows hot and cold, with his long-term future in major doubt.
Wedded to the system
Sarri is more than culpable for the poor results and inconsistent performances.
His ‘Sarri-ball’ tactics attracted admirers at Napoli, but few have followed here.
Jorginho leads the passing statistics in the Premier League (2,136; not one assist) as the fulcrum of a 4-3-3 formation which has seen N’Golo Kante played out of position on the right side of midfield.
When Jorginho struggles, Chelsea do.
Yet Sarri has shown a stubbornness and inflexibility, offering no plan B while his substitutions are predictable.
'We are very angry. It is unacceptable for Chelsea and we have to find the solutions.’ - @CesarAzpi— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 31, 2019
He has admitted new signing Gonzalo Higuain needs to start scoring quickly, but a lack of goals are only part of the team’s problems.
Why not play Callum Hudson-Odoi more? He may fare better than Pedro, Willian and others.
Perhaps past successes – Conte called the title win in his first season a “miracle” after the Blues finished 10th the year before – covered up systemic failures.
Chelsea head coaches or managers, whatever their title, are not solely responsible for recruitment.
Michael Emenalo’s departure in November 2017 means transfers are a large part of director Marina Granovskaia’s remit, with recommendations from the head coach considered.
A director of football/technical director would ease the considerable workload on Granovskaia and may also help with joined-up thinking to promote academy players to regular first-team action.
What happens next?
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has tended to wield the axe when Champions League qualification prospects are slim.
It would seem strange for that method to change and to show patience with a 60-year-old former banker who is yet to win silverware.
Luis Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas Boas were both fired in their first seasons, but both had more pedigree than Sarri.
Stick or twist, it would seem Chelsea have plenty of difficult moments ahead.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has urged patience as the pressure increases in the title run-in.
The Reds extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points over Manchester City with a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester.
Frustration grew among a large number of fans at Anfield throughout the second half and there was disappointment at the final whistle at the sense this was a missed opportunity after City’s surprise defeat to Newcastle the previous night.
Van Dijk understands the sentiments, which were transmitted to the players on the pitch, but insists they are not warranted just yet with such a long way to go in the season.
“Obviously you get that feeling from the crowd and I think it’s not really necessary at the moment,” said the Holland captain.
“But obviously everyone wants to win so bad and that’s what we want as well, but sometimes you need to be very patient.
“In the end it’s all about showing on the pitch and we’re not going to be affected by that.
“We want everyone to cheer us on and keep pushing even if we have tough moments, even if we’re 1-0 down or maybe more.
“We just need everyone to pull in the same direction and keep going, that’s the only way forward.”
Part of the problem was many fans arrived expecting a simple three points, with Leicester on a three-match losing run and Liverpool trying to extend a seven-game winning league sequence at Anfield.
The draw was not for a lack of effort, with a couple of decent penalty shouts being turned down and Harry Maguire escaping with a yellow card for bringing down fellow goalscorer Sadio Mane as the Senegal international threatened to break clean through on goal.
Asked what was missing from the performance, Van Dijk added: “I don’t know, a bit of luck I think, a bit of extra edge maybe that we sometimes have a little bit more than last night.
“There are a lot of circumstances that play a part. They are a good team, they play good football, great players, and for us we were just not lucky enough I think.”
The mantra maintained by manager Jurgen Klopp and his players is that they are focused on themselves and do not pay attention to what City are doing.
For that reason, Van Dijk said the surprise Newcastle sprang at St James’ Park barely registered with the squad when they assembled on match day.
“We were just preparing for the game: in the morning we trained and nobody talked about it. We just focused on our game and it was a very tough game,” added the £75million centre-back.
“That’s not something that we focus on. That they lose is obviously not good for them but it’s obviously good for us for the title race.
“But there are so many games left. Anything can happen and you saw that against a good (Leicester) side.”