Maurizio Sarri seeks showdown talks with Willian over late arrival as Real Madrid speculation grows
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has revealed his dissatisfaction at Willian's late return for pre-season and will seek immediate talks with the Brazilian amid ongoing interest from Real Madrid.
Willian was due back at Chelsea last Friday, following his post-World Cup holiday but, with his passport having expired, did not report back to training until Wednesday afternoon when the first team were in Dublin for Wednesday night's penalty shoot-out defeat against Arsenal.
Sarri agreed that the situation was "strange" and now wants to hold discussions with Willian, who has been linked with a £65 million move to Madrid, to first fully understand the situation. "I want to speak to him before I answer these questions," said Sarri. "I am not happy about this situation but, before I answer, I would like to speak to him."
Chelsea insist that there was nothing untoward about Willian's delayed arrival - which was apparently caused by a lack of pages on his previous passport - and stressed that the 29 year-old had kept them informed of the situation.
The obvious concern, however, relates both to his fitness and mindset. Chelsea face Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday, with Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois also due back this weekend ahead of further crunch talks about their futures. The two Belgium internationals delivered mixed messages about their intentions following the World Cup and have yet to accept offers from Chelsea to extend their contracts.
"I will see them on Saturday for the first time - I don't know the situation," said Sarri. "We are talking about top players. Every club wants to keep their top players and we are trying to do it."
One Chelsea player who is back in full training is England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but it was his missed penalty which ultimately allowed Arsenal to clinch their victory in Dublin following a 1-1 draw.
One major concern for Arsenal was a knee injury to left-back Sead Kolasinac and he will have a scan over the next 48 hours to determine whether there is any ligament damage. A separate calf injury that ruled out Aaron Ramsey is not considered to be serious. "Aaron Ramsey is not a big problem," said manager Unai Emery. "Kolasinac is maybe different because it is his leg. For that, we are waiting for the medical analysis."
Chelsea began this match by partnering their £57 million club record-signing with a 17 year-old who had never previously started a senior competitive game, but there was no doubting which of the two left Dublin with their reputation most enhanced.
Callum Hudson-Odoi capped what has already been an outstanding pre-season with a wonderful individual display that has helped convince Sarri that he should stay with the senior squad rather than go on loan next season.
Playing off the left in Eden Hazard's usual role, Hudson-Odoi's pace and willingness to run directly will have surprised nobody who has worked with him through Chelsea's academy but it certainly left Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin reeling. And yet, as confident and impressive as Hudson-Odoi was, the form of striker Alvaro Morata is surely a cause for concern.
He became a father to twins on Sunday and, with Sarri saying before the match that it was the sort of life-changing event that would only help his on-field performance, he wasted a series of excellent chances. Such misses in pre-season could normally be dismissed as an irrelevance - and he should get a further chance to make amends in Sunday's Community Shield - but the context is how Morata ended last season.
Having scored 12 goals up to and including Boxing Day last year, he managed only one in the Premier League thereafter and still looks worryingly short of confidence. "I don't know if he is low on confidence," said Sarri. "Maybe it was hard the last three days, very intense, so maybe this match he was a bit tired. I am not worried about Morata."
The rotation of the Arsenal captaincy had continued with Cech taking the armband ahead of Ramsey, even before the Wales midfielder ultimately withdrew from the match after hurting his calf during the warm-up.
It meant a start for 18-year-old midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe and, if we are being generous to Arsenal, we could suspect that the late change had a direct impact on Chelsea's fifth-minute goal. Hudson-Odoi had helped win a corner and, after receiving some predictable pantomime boos from Arsenal's fans, Cesc Fabregas aimed a cross into the centre of the penalty area that was headed beyond Cech after Antonio Rudiger got free from Smith-Rowe.
Arsenal did not seriously pressurise Chelsea until the final third of the match but forced a shoot-out with the last kick of the game when Alexandre Lacazette converted Reiss Nelson's cross.