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'I could play against Chelsea's midfield' - Souness blasts 'five-a-side players' Jorginho, Barkley & Kovacic

13:21 GMT+3 29/05/2019
Ross Barkley Jorginho Mateo Kovacic Chelsea 2018-19
Ahead of the Europa League final against Arsenal, the former Liverpool captain has criticised the Blues and their manager Maurizio Sarri

Graeme Souness has launched a withering attack on Chelsea’s ‘lightweight’ midfield ahead of their Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku on Wednesday.

The former Liverpool captain has suggested the midfield trio of Jorginho, Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic are little more than ‘five-a-side players’, while he also served up a damning critique of their manager Maurizio Sarri.

Speaking to Goal at an event to promote Virgin Media Sport’s coverage of the Europa League final on Irish TV, Souness did not hold back as he suggested Chelsea’s key players could be overrun by an Arsenal side chasing a trophy and Champions League football in the final. 

“I look at Chelsea’s midfield and I could play against them,” declared Souness. “Jorginho is a five-a-side player, Ross Barkley is a five-a-side player, Mateo Kovacic is another five-a-side player. 

“If the three of them were sat in front of me now and I asked them to describe themselves, they would tell me they are attacking midfield players.

“So you are an attacking midfield player. Does that mean you score goals? Oh no, I don’t score goals. That is what they should do, but they don’t do it. A successful team must share the goals around, but Chelsea are lightweight in midfield.

“If N’Golo Kante was playing and Antonio Rudiger was playing, I may lean towards Chelsea, but those two are out injured and they are just too reliant on Eden Hazard to come up with a moment of magic in every game. He is arguably the best player in the Premier League and, unless he delivers, Chelsea don’t win.”

Souness went on to offer a damning critique of Chelsea manager Sarri, as he argued the Italian’s failure to win a major trophy in his career was a damning blot on his record as he suggested his ‘Sarri-ball’ brand of football had not worked in England’s Premier League.

“How many jobs has Sarri had in professional football?” asked Souness. “The answer is 19 and what has he won in professional football? Nothing. 

“I also need someone to tell me what Sarri-ball is? Is it keeping the ball on the halfway line and the stats will say we have 70 per cent of possession? That isn’t helping anyone.

“I’m not sure this is the best time to get the Chelsea job if the transfer ban is on them and Hazard goes. Chelsea have so many players out on loan and, if they have a transfer ban, they may start having to using those players. 

“It’s easy to criticise Chelsea for changing their managers, but they have won more trophies than anyone over the last 15 years so that system of changing managers every season or two has worked.”

Souness also joined the chorus of critics questioning UEFA’s move to play the Europa League final in Azerbaijan, with Arsenal and Chelsea fans struggling to plot a route to Baku for the match.

“Taking it to Baku, I just don’t think it’s correct,” he added. “You are trying to spread the game throughout the world, but if you sat down and picked a more awkward place to get to you would struggle. 

“If it was two Italian teams, two French teams, how difficult is it? Let’s make life difficult for supporters, but we should not be surprised. It’s never been any different. 

“Go back a few years and UEFA had the Champions League final at Wembley within a couple of years. Why? There are so many hospitality boxes there and UEFA earn so much money out of it that they decided it was a good idea to have it there twice. This is all about finances and the fans are forgotten.”