Maurizio Sarri said Chelsea are a year behind their Premier League rivals in the hunt for the title after the goalless draw at West Ham.
Sarri made an impressive start to life as Chelsea manager — despite being appointed on July 14 — winning his first five games of the season, but he does not think his side are yet able to compete with champions Manchester City or early league leaders Liverpool.
“We have started to work together 35, 40 days ago. Less if you include the international breaks. So for us it’s a bit early,” Sarri said. “We have to work, we need to improve, and maybe in one year we will be on that level.”
Cesar Azpilicueta, a two-time Premier League winner with Chelsea, said they must try to challenge for the title this season.
“We are the team that have won more titles in recent years in England,” the defender told reporters in the mixed zone postmatch. “It is true that in the last four years, we haven’t done it well in the season after winning [the Premier League] title.
“But after we didn’t qualify for the Champions League [last season], it is clear that now the target is to be competitive again in the Premier League, to be as close as possible to the title and try to fight for it.”
Sarri also refused to use Europa League fatigue as an excuse after Chelsea’s perfect start to the season ended.
Sarri had expressed his disapproval about having to return to Premier League action on Sunday in light of Chelsea’s continental commitments; in Italy, teams participating in the Europa League have their following domestic fixtures moved to Monday evening.
“It’s very difficult to play in the Europa League, but more difficult in March and April, not now,” Sarri said. “I said only that I don’t know why, in England, after an away match in the Europa League [we do not] play in the Premier League on the Monday night.
“In Italy, it’s possible. Here I have to play 64 hours after a Europa League match. In this period, it’s not a big problem. In April, maybe.”