Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri labelled his players mentally weak after losing 2-0 at Arsenal on Saturday.
The Gunners blew the race for a top-four Premier League finish wide open as first-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny closed Arsenal and Manchester United, who beat Brighton earlier in the day, to within three points of Chelsea in fourth.
“I’m extremely angry, very angry indeed. This defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else, our mental approach. We played against a team more determined than we were and I can’t accept that,” said Sarri, who chose to speak through a translator in his native Italian to clearly explain the scale of his frustration.
“The fact is it appears this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate.”
On current form, Sarri’s men look likely to be caught by Arsenal or United as a fourth defeat in 11 league matches – a run that started with a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham in November and Chelsea’s performance was horribly reminiscent of that night at Wembley.
The Blues enjoyed 64 percent possession, but had just one shot on target to again question Sarri’s decision to start without a recognised striker with Eden Hazard’s impact limited in a central role.
However, Sarri insisted it was his players’ attitude and not his system that was the problem.
“I think when you see this kind of game, when one team is more determined than the other, you can’t really talk about tactics,” he added.
“Tactics don’t come into it. Their high level of motivation was obvious throughout, particularly in both penalty areas.”
Sarri now has to hope Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuai, who scored 38 goals when the pair first worked together at Napoli in the 2015/16 season, is the answer.