Chelsea started the season too well – Sarri
Maurizio Sarri believes Chelsea's blistering start to the Premier League season gave supporters false hope for what could be achieved during his first campaign in charge.
The Italian oversaw a 12-game unbeaten domestic run after joining from Napoli with the Blues not tasting defeat in the league until a visit to Tottenham on November 24.
Since then, Sarri's side have slipped away from title contention and are now in a four-way battle with Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United for two Champions League qualification spots.
Chelsea fans vented their frustration during Sunday's last-gasp win at Cardiff City, including calls for Sarri to lose his job, but the 60-year-old believes expectations were unfairly raised after that impressive start.
"We probably started too well," he told a media conference ahead of Wednesday's Premier League clash with Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge. "Our fans probably thought that it would be an easy season for us.
"In the last seasons they were used to winning. So they probably thought that it was normal to continue to win. But it's not normal.
"In the Premier League, I think that it's not easy. Every match is very difficult, every team is really very strong. It's really very difficult to be in the top four in this championship."
When asked if he expected Chelsea to fall away from the league summit over the course of the season, he said: "Yes. We had to face difficulties. We started very well, a bit lucky in some matches with a very great level of enthusiasm.
"But I knew very well that it wasn't easy and, sooner or later, we'd have to face big difficulties."
Sarri's brand of possession-based football has attracted criticism from fans this season but he insists he has no intention of changing his ways.
When asked if he would adapt his approach, he responded: "No, because I need to believe in what I do. Otherwise, for me, it's impossible for me to pass my ideas to the players."