Gonzalo Higuain is not in shape and needs to regain his best physical condition before he makes an impact for Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri has said.
Sarri substituted Higuain for Olivier Giroud to the fury of the travelling Chelsea supporters in the 65th minute of Wednesday’s shock 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, the Argentina striker having proved unable to seriously test Arthur Boruc on his Premier League debut.
Higuain had played just 130 minutes of football for AC Milan in 2019 before signing for Chelsea on a lucrative loan deal last week, and after the match Sarri revealed he expects his new striker to take time to regain his rhythm.
“You can tell he’s not at the top [of his shape] yet,” Sarri said of Higuain to Gazzetta dello Sport. “In the last month, between his back pain and the transfer window, he didn’t train properly. He just needs to get back into a better condition.”
The defeat was Chelsea’s heaviest in the Premier League since 1996, and saw Arsenal leapfrog them into fourth place after 24 matches.
Supporter frustration with Sarri’s unwillingness to stray from his preferred 4-3-3 formation and patient possession style has grown, and loud chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” rang out from the away section of the Vitality Stadium when he elected to replace Higuain with Giroud.
“There are too many things which aren’t working, we keep repeating the same mistakes,” Sarri added. “I don’t think [tactical corrections] is the issue. The truth is that the team hasn’t quite metabolised my concepts.”
Sarri kept his Chelsea players locked in the away dressing room for around 40 minutes as he sought an explanation for their second half collapse, before again questioning their mentality in responding to adversity while admitting that he may not be the man capable of motivating them.
“We have only to say sorry to our fans,” he said. “We can lose, of course, in every match, but not in this way. We need to solve the problem. We need to understand where the problem is.”
Asked if he now feels his job is under threat, the Italian replied: “No, I feel frustrated. Not under pressure. I don’t see … I didn’t see the signal of my work. So I am frustrated.”