Gianfranco Zola has said that Chelsea players got “bored” under Maurizio Sarri’s management last season.
Maurizio Sarri enjoyed a turbulent season in charge at Chelsea, overshadowed by fan hostility and player-manager rifts.
The Italian arrived in London from Napoli in July 2018 and immediately appointed club legend Gianfranco Zola as his assistant.
Fans were excited about the kind of football Sarri might bring to Stamford Bridge but the relationship soon turned sour.
Despite guiding the club to a third-placed finish in the Premier League, and winning the Europa League, Sarri was sacked at the end of the 2018/19 season and replaced by Frank Lampard.
Sarri's reign started fantastically, with Chelsea winning their first five league games of the season and keeping up with early pace setters Liverpool and Manchester City.
But things began to unravel mid-way through the season and Chelsea were left battling for Champions League qualification whilst City and Liverpool ran away at the top of the league.
Fans’ patience started to wear thin and rifts started to appear in the dressing room, the low point being when Sarri was left furious at Wembley during the League Cup final when his goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to leave the pitch.
Gianfranco Zola believes the amount of games the players were playing began to take its toll on the group:
“At the beginning the players were very much behind everything that we were saying, they were brilliant,” said Zola, speaking to BEIN Sports.
"They were following everything, but then as the weeks passed due to the repetition and the amount of games they were playing, the players got tired and they also got bored in a way.
"But boring is part of our job. Sometimes you need to get bored but when you get bored you persist in what you're doing and you get better.
"I remember that when I was learning to play football, kicking a ball for example, I used to do it 300-400 times a day at least.
“There were moments when I got tired but I needed to do it repeatedly because if I wanted it to become a part of me, this was the process I needed to go through."
Players’ professionalism helped the club achieve success at the end of the season.
Despite players’ confidence in the manager waning by the end of the season, Chelsea still managed to gain third-place in the Premier League and win a trophy in the form of the Europa League.
Zola believes the professionalism of the players was key:
"They were talented players, like Hazard and Willian, players who know how to win games on their own, but they were suffering from the type of exercises and type of training we were doing - but it was necessary for the others.
"I'll be honest, they were brilliant because they got bored, but they kept doing it throughout and that was the reason why when everyone was dropping we were going up towards the end."