Gianfranco Zola claims Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea criticism had desired effect
Last Updated: 25/01/19 4:35pm
Maurizio Sarri's stinging criticism of Chelsea's players after their Premier League defeat to Arsenal had the desired effect, according to assistant coach Gianfranco Zola.
After Sarri had publicly questioned his players' desire following the 2-0 loss at the Emirates last weekend, Chelsea delivered a much-improved performance to win their Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham on Thursday evening.
Having made a flying start to the season after Sarri arrived from Napoli over the summer, Chelsea have struggled of late, with their defeat at Arsenal leaving their Champions League qualification hopes in doubt.
"As a coach, you need to get the best out of the players, sometimes you need to compliment them, sometimes you have to criticise them. It's important the players respond the right way - and they did," Zola said on Friday.
"The players showed yesterday that they wanted to go to the final."
"They showed a lot of personality and a good attitude, and the result and the performance was a consequence of that."
Sarri appeared to still be in a frustrated mood ahead of the cup semi-final, as he also risked unsettling star man Eden Hazard by suggesting the Belgian isn't a leader.
Hazard responded with a man-of-the-match performance against Tottenham, scoring to help his side to a 2-1 victory after 90 minutes, before Chelsea advanced via a penalty shootout to face Manchester City at Wembley next month.
"What (Hazard) showed me yesterday was the reaction of a great player with a great personality, and I'm looking forward to seeing him until the end of the season, and for more of that," Zola said.
"It's important that you react in that way. I was very impressed and pleased with Eden's performance."
Chelsea and Sarri have also been handed a further boost with the signing of his former Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain, who is set to make his debut against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Zola believes that Higuain's arrival will also help Hazard to find his best form, with Chelsea's leading scorer able to return to his favoured left-wing position rather than playing in a central 'false-nine' role.
"Certainly when we have teams that are waiting in their own half, when he plays in a wide area, where he has more freedom, it gives a lot to his game," Zola said.
"I believe with this potential, he can do well as a main striker, but more when you have space in front of you."
"I believe that when he plays in a position and he's got a target in front of him where he can play off him, I think he can do even better, so I'm looking forward to seeing that."