The coach watched his team build a 1-0 lead against Wolves in midweek, and then could not quite believe what he saw in the second half.
“I think we played very well for 55 minutes,” Sarri said.
“After the first [Wolves] goal – that was an accident because we were in full control of the match – we were suddenly another team, without the right distances, without our football. I don’t know why. I am really worried not for the result but for the fact that we didn’t react to the first goal of the opponent.”
Pep Guardiola can sympathise.
In his first season in English football, City started strongly but a 3-3 draw at Celtic and a 2-0 hammering at Tottenham saw all confidence in their bold, new approach drain from the players. By the time they began to believe again, the season was as good as over.
Sarri, another disciple of Arrigo Sacchi, was expected to have a similar first year in the Premier League and so it is playing out. Their defeat at Wolves had shades of City’s home defeat to Chelsea in December 2016 – one of only two league games Guardiola has lost at the Etihad.
Gary Cahill’s own goal on the stroke of half-time was sending the Blues to the top of the league, but Kevin De Bruyne’s incredible miss in the 56th minute transformed the game. Chelsea scored three and would not give up top spot for the rest of the year, while regular inquests were conducted into City’s problems.
Two years on, Guardiola’s defending champions enter the weekend in top spot seemingly without flaw as questions are beginning to be asked about Sarri’s decisions; the debate over how best to use Jorginho and N’Golo Kante is unlikely to go away any time soon.
Chelsea have beaten Arsenal and Liverpool this season, but these results came before they tasted defeat. With losses to Spurs and Wolves in two of their last three league games leading to the attitude off the players being questioned at Molineux, the manager needs a reaction.
Guardiola was unable to turn the tide when it mattered in his first season, and Chelsea took full advantage when the teams met at the Etihad. As the rampant Blues head to Stamford Bridge, can Sarri fare any better?