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Have Chelsea Lost Their Ability To Rise To The Big Occasion?

Former Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole thinks that Maurizio Sarri’s side lacked a big game mentality in the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool yesterday.

Speaking after the game, the former England international feels they don’t have an edge which previous Chelsea squad’s had:

“Chelsea have missed that bit of bite this season and I don’t think they play arrogant anymore.”

The absence of leadership in the dressing room has been something that has played on the mind of fans this campaign. Sarri’s freezing out of club captain Gary Cahill has led to Cesar Azpilicueta taking over the mantle.

The Spaniard is a solid professional, but his authority was questioned by some during the Carabao Cup final when he left it to David Luiz to talk to Kepa Arrizabalaga following his refusal to be substituted in the penalty shootout loss.

Many supporters feel that the club have never replaced the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard in leadership roles, and that lack of backbone has certainly been evident in some matches this season.

While I agree with Cole that there is a lack of arrogance about this Chelsea team, if you look at the stats, they do put in some very good performances against the ‘Big Six.’ They have beaten Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal at home this season, whilst drawing against Liverpool and Manchester United.

With the crowd fully behind them, Maurizio Sarri’s team have delivered on the big occasions, but it’s obvious that away from home, they are missing the personalities in the dressing room in order to stay solid and grind out results.

A dismal 6-0 defeat to Manchester City, along with poor performances away at Tottenham and Arsenal, show a team buckling under pressure on the road. You could argue that the loss yesterday was a marked improvement on those previous displays.

They kept Liverpool quiet for most of the first half, and even in the second period, Eden Hazard had those two glorious chances to get the Blues back into the match.

Sarri has certainly changed tactics in these away games against the top six following the mauling against City. The question is though, should a team with so much quality be sitting men behind the ball and just hoping to catch teams out on the counter-attack?

Of course, Jose Mourinho wasn’t averse to doing just that, and he was a master of it, but Sarri wasn’t hired for that purpose. His reputation was built upon possession-based play, rather than the so-called “anti-football” philosophy that many came to describe Mourinho’s style.

You have to question whether the fear of losing his job has led him to compromise too much. He may be waiting until pre-season to implement his style of play in full, but he may be out of a job by then if he can’t secure a top-four finish.

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