Chelsea players believe there is a lack of leadership running through Maurizio Sarri’s team that is contributing to their on-pitch collapses.
As revealed by Telegraph Sport, Sarri’s fate as head coach could rest on the results during the next fortnight after the humiliating 6-0 thrashing at Manchester City.
But there is recognition from inside the dressing-room that Sarri is not solely to blame and that the squad are not showing enough character in adversity.
A number of players believe that is down to the fact Chelsea no longer have strong leaders within the group of players Sarri favours and that individuals are more likely to blame each other rather than assume responsibility.
Chelsea have lost all three of their last away games, conceding 12 goals in the process, and have only won one of the eight Premier League games in which they’ve fallen behind this season, losing six times.
Sarri has questioned the mentality of his players more than once this season and kept Gary Cahill as the club captain despite freezing the defender out of his plans.
Cahill is one of the few genuine leaders left at Chelsea, but his influence has been minimised by the fact he has rarely been included in Sarri’s matchday squad or used within the dressing-room. On-pitch captain Cesar Azpiliceuta is well respected by the majority of his team-mates and is a player who tries to lead by example. But there are no old-fashioned leaders who are prepared to assume control when things do not go to plan.
David Luiz is probably the most vocal of Chelsea’s players who regularly start under Sarri, but the Brazilian is not universally popular within the squad is often accused of blaming others for his own mistakes.
Eden Hazard captains Belgium and yet Sarri recently insisted the forward is not a natural leader and that has been demonstrated in recent weeks when he too showed his frustration or simply switched off when the going got tough.
Chelsea’s most successful teams of the Roman Abramovich era were full of leaders such as John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech.
Jose Mourinho brought Drogba back to the club and leaned heavily on the striker’s experience during the 2014/15 title winning season. Drogba’s departure in the summer in 2015 was used as one of the reasons for Chelsea’s collapse during the following campaign.
Similarly, Antonio Conte made Terry a key figure of his squad despite not regularly starting the former defender in his title-winning season.
Chelsea had been preparing to let Terry leave during the summer in which Conte took over, but there was a change of heart following face-to-face talks between the pair.
Conte convinced Terry that he could still play a vital role for him even if he was not playing and the player agreed to use his leadership for the benefit of the squad.
Like Drogba, Terry left Stamford Bridge after collecting his final title winners’ medal with Chelsea and Conte missed his influence as he battled to keep the dressing-room together during what proved to be his last season in charge.
Sarri has made no effort to use Cahill’s experience despite keeping him as club captain. The 60-year-old has barely spoken to the former Bolton Wanderers man and has not consulted him on what might be going wrong.
Some of Chelsea’s successful former stars were staggered to see pictures from the Etihad Stadium tunnel of players chatting to and swapping shirts with Manchester City players just minutes after their mauling.
Tottenham Hotspur officials were last season surprised when Álvaro Morata asked to swap shirts with Dele Alli, despite the fierce rivalry that exists between Spurs and Chelsea.
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