Sarri addresses UCL list cuts and more in pre-Fiorentina presser

Coach Maurizio Sarri rejoiced returning on the bench after battling pneumonia and dished out honest assessments about few players in the pre-game conference ahead of the game against Fiorentina.

“For a coach, being on the bench and participating to the practices it is everything. It is not easy to step aside, I thank our doctors that took care of me for 20 days and made me realize it was better to take a short pause in that moment rather than risking being out for longer at a later date. It was heavy but I accepted since the staff was working swimmingly.”

On the Champions League list: “I said that there is an embarrassment of choices, not that is an embarrassing situation. We had to make a decision and it was not easy nor gratifying, but it is part of the job. It is clear that it is not a pleasant thing because two top-notch players are involved, but it underlines the strength of our roster. It is large and it forced me into this, but on the other hand we have just one player that is truly indispensable. All things considered, we are lucky.”

On rotating the players: “We are focusing on the Serie A right now, we will think about the cup from tomorrow night. We are in a phase where we are looking to build a strong identity and therefore it is tough to rotate since the next ten days will be vital. This aspect has taken precedence so far, the design might not be the definitive one but it gives us something more right now. We have several players that have not featured a lot in the last few months: Sami Khedira, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot. Therefore, they are behind the ones that had more continuity. The group is working well, I was impressed during the break, where usually there could be some lack of motivation. Some benefitted greatly from these past ten days, but only physically and not tactically.”

On Emre Can: “I have to consider the emotional element and allow him to vent, let it simmer down and deal with it when the situation is more serene.”

On Miralem Pjanic’s back-up: “I am very curios to see Rodrigo Bentancur there, he made a strong impression in practice. He can play in a pair of roles, he is not a specialist, but I have a feeling he can become an important player.”

On Aaron Ramsey: “He is coming back from a tough injury. He was way behind physically ten days ago, but he is making strides. There is still a gap compared to his teammates, but if he carries on like this he can soon return to good levels. He is technical, he can play as winger interpreting it in his own way. I see him as box-to-box primarily.”

On some past remarks against Juventus: “I never said they are lucky, but I always believed they were the best team, then you can discuss about certain episodes. At Napoli, we have lost some titles with a ten-point lead and we were close at times, so some things had more weight. You can let me vent from time to time. I have realized that the strength of this club lies in its organization and mindset. They file the win away quickly and move onto the next fixture: transmitting this mentality to the coaches and players is extraordinary. It is a fierce one and winning will get tougher, but there is the right anger.”

On his family: “My mom was not happy I moved here since that side of the family is from Florence and supports Fiorentina. I have a lot of memories of that stadium, unfortunately now I can only see the last one since we lost the Scudetto there. I hope to replace it with a better one.”

On implement his schemes: “I am not here to replicate other teams, the squad has an identity and an idea, I do not want to clash with the skillsets of my players. I have seen some things we have reharsed in practice in our last game. Playing in this way, managing the game gets harder, we have to handle some moments better. We must maintain possession, otherwise it gets dangerous. We need to work on that, but this will end up being a team with more ball control and more physical than others I had. I want it to follow my ideas in principle.”

On the Napoli game: “We did not have a physical drop, we run more than the opponent sin the second half according to my data. We are clearly not at the top level there though. We conceded twice on set pieces with a bit of superficiality, then if you sit back against a technical side, the risk increases.”

On Giorgio Chiellini: “He is the heart and soul of the team for his professionality, mental strength and leadership. It is was a big loss and my job now is to recover Daniele Rugani completely and help Matthijs De Ligt complete his transition to Italian football. He is a future top player, but he comes for a different football and he is very young, it is normal for him to struggle a bit. Michel Platini did the same in his firstfew  months. He has to improve and adapt, but he will be able to thrive in the future.”

Again on the rotations: “In Naples, there was not as much competition and there was a significant difference between the first 14 players and the others. We used 18 footballers in Chelsea instead. It is not a matter of habit, but it is a clear choice. I do not think we are ready to rotate them fully because we have to build our identity. Down the line, we aim at having 11 players that are interchangeable.”

On Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic: “Higuain is not a pet player of mine, he was not used a lot at Chelsea at the end of last season. He showed well in practice and he displayed he is the same player as of two or three years ago, there is nothing personal in the choice. I can be right or wrong, but my decisions come from what I have seen in training.”

On Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot: “Rabiot has not played in 2019. He was great in his first 15 days then he decreased physically, which is normal. He is very sensitive and I noticed that he had some troubles mentally when his conditioning dropped. But he has great skills. Matuidi is important for us with his dynamism and attention, he adapts to what is in front of him and to how Cristiano Ronaldo moves. Cristiano has to make the difference, he is the best in world and he needs to have freedom and has to be helped by whoever plays behind him.”

On Kalidou Koulibaly: “I was sorry for him because he is great guy. I thought we won a game we deserved to win with a lucky accident.”

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