Fan hostility won’t make me walk away from Chelsea, insists Sarri

Chelsea, Clubs, English Premier League, Story
Late goals from Cesar Azpilicueta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek keep Chelsea in the top four hunt with a win at Cardiff.
English Premier League: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (90+1′) Cardiff 1-2 Chelsea
English Premier League: Cesar Azpilicueta (84′) Cardiff 1-1 Chelsea

Maurizio Sarri insisted he would never consider walking away from Chelsea despite enduring open hostility from many supporters throughout Sunday’s controversial 2-1 comeback win over Cardiff City.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek nodded in Chelsea’s winner in the first minute of injury time after Cesar Azpilicueta had cancelled out Victor Camarasa’s second-half strike with a header from an offside position, infuriating Cardiff manager Neil Warnock.

Chelsea’s unlikely late fightback followed sustained chants against Sarri from large groups of irate travelling Blues supporters that included “F— Sarriball”, “We want Sarri out” and “You don’t know what you’re doing”.

Sarri heard the calls for him to be sacked, and after the match claimed that winning on the pitch is the only way to lift the mood in the stands.

“I can understand it very well,” he said of the chants. “I have been on the pitch for the last 45 years, so I know the reaction of the fans. I was really disappointed for my players, because they were fighting. Probably it was better to wait until the end of the match.

“But, for me, it’s not a big problem. Of course I can understand. Unfortunately, in the last period, I am getting used to this. Unfortunately. I have to work just in order to change their opinion.

Maurizio Sarri watches on in Chelsea’s match against Cardiff City on Sunday.

“I think that we only need to win matches. If you win matches, the fans will be happy. Of course, we need to improve and play better. But sometimes, during the season, you need to win matches like this. We lost in Everton after our best first half of the season, playing very good football, but ended up losing the match.

“[Here] we started very badly but, in the end, we won. Probably with a bit of luck, but, for sure, there was a bit of unluckiness at Everton.”

Asked if supporter opposition could ever make him consider resigning, Sarri replied: “No, no, I want to stay here. When I arrived here, this team, on the table, was 30 points behind Manchester City. They were fifth. So I want to stay here, I want to improve the results.

“But, of course, [I knew] it wasn’t a very easy [job]. Probably, at the moment, there is a difference between Manchester City, Liverpool and us. We can fight with the others, I think. We are trying to do it, but we have to work very well and, for a long time, if we want to arrive in the top two.”

Sarri fuelled supporter frustration by naming Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek on his bench against Cardiff, while his starters struggled to break down the Premier League’s second-worst defence despite never enjoying less than 70% possession.

“I cannot think that Kante, Hazard can play 70 matches in a season,” he explained when quizzed about his team selection. “Kante, at the moment, has played 50 or 51 matches. Hazard 48 with today. In the last period, they played two matches with the national team, 185 minutes for Hazard, 175 for Kante.

“Probably, in every season, there is a moment in which you have to rest. So, at the end, we were lucky because we gained three points and Hazard played only 35 minutes and Kante zero. It’s very important for us to have them in a very good physical condition for the last seven matches of the Premier League.

“I know very well that Kante is a very important player for us, Hazard is a very important player for us. But I know very well that they cannot play 75 matches in a season. So sometimes you have to decide.

“It’s not easy, because you have to choose the right moment and you don’t know if it’s the right moment or not. You have to decide.”

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