Maurizio Sarri calls for Chelsea fans to stop abuse for good of the team

Maurizio Sarri has appealed to Chelsea’s disgruntled support to hold back on protests against his management for the good of the team as he prepares to hand Callum Hudson-Odoi a first Premier League start for the visit of Brighton on Wednesday.

Sarri endured abuse from the 3,000-strong travelling support during Sunday’s comeback victory at Cardiff, with choruses of “Fuck Sarriball” and “We want, Sarri out”. The manager has acknowledged the fans’ frustrations, which he believes are partly born of expectations being unrealistically raised by Chelsea’s excellent start to the season, but said the chants unsettle the players.

“They have to help the players during the match,” Sarri said. “After the match they can say anything but during the match I hope they will be able to help. We are a group. At the moment, we are a very good group. So I think it’s not helpful for my players. For me it’s not a big problem. I’m not happy but it’s not a big problem. I am 60, so I can understand. But when I was 25, probably it was different.

“I am not happy but I am not concerned. It can happen. I can understand very well the frustration of our fans. But, in the end, we are not doing so badly. During this season, we have won 33 matches [in all competitions]. In England, only Manchester City did better than us. We know we need to improve our performances. Probably we started very well and so our fans thought everything was really very easy for us. It’s not.

“I expected this to happen. We started well, a bit lucky in some matches with a very great level of enthusiasm. But I knew it wasn’t easy and, sooner or later, we’d have to face big difficulties. Probably, in the last seasons, the fans were used to winning. So probably they thought it was normal to continue to win. But the other teams in the last seasons have improved a lot.”

The mood will be raised by Hudson-Odoi’s inclusion. The 18-year-old impressed when earning his two England caps last month but has played 110 minutes for his country and only 119 in the Premier League this season. He was an unused substitute at Cardiff but should join Eden Hazard in the starting lineup against Brighton.

“In pre-season, after four or five training sessions, I realised Callum was really a player with a very great potential,” Sarri said. “In my opinion, in that moment, he wasn’t ready to play at this level. But during the season he has improved and now he’s ready to play. But I decided at the beginning of the season he had to stay with us and I put him in the squad. So I know very well Callum, and I want him to improve more because the potential is higher. And Callum is always in my mind. In my opinion, he is our future. Now he’s ready to play. Probably he will start tomorrow or in the next match.”

Sarri did add the caveat that he would check the fitness of Willian (hamstring) and Pedro – who suffered a knock at Cardiff – before finalising his selection. “We need to play better if we want to try to change the fans’ opinion,” he said.

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“I will not change, because I need to believe in what I do. Otherwise, for me, it’s impossible to pass my ideas to the players. So I know only one way [to win over the fans]: we have to win matches. We have to try to win a trophy. We still have the chance to take our target. We can arrive at the end in the top four. We can try to take the final in the Europa League. And so, in the end, our season can become a very good season.”