Another season, another ?talented tactician seemingly on the brink at Chelsea. Speculation regarding the future of Maurizio Sarri has, predictably, intensified following the Blues penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.
Sarri’s side performed admirably during the match, dominating for large periods of the second-half, but fell agonisingly short of the trophy after Raheem Sterling slammed home the winning penalty for Pep Guardiola’s side.
It is almost unfathomable that nine of Chelsea’s starting XI had begun the 6-0 demolition at the Etihad just two weeks prior. However, their brave and encouraging display borders on
As the ?Chelsea goalkeeper stood defiant on pitch, unwilling to be substituted, Sarri himself bordered on breaking point. The Italian was evidently raging with the Kepa’s insubordination and appeared set to walk out on the biggest job of his career.
Sarri marched towards the dressing room before, perhaps wisely, having a change of heart and returning to the touchline.
A Lack of Respect
?Kepa’s actions were unfortunately the greatest example of ‘player power’ evident in the modern game. The public humiliation of Sarri has deservedly seen Kepa fined one week’s wages, and the magnitude of the situation has created a genuine feeling of sympathy for the Italian throughout the football community. It was a difficult moment to watch.
The lack of respect shown runs deeper than just Kepa, though. The barrage of abuse suffered by Sarri from the media and the general public, seemingly criticising his every move, is extremely unfair. 12 months ago Sarri’s Napoli side were playing some sumptuous football and topped the ?Serie A table ahead of a star-studded ?Juventus side, so he understandably trusts his own methods.
Many have called the Italian ‘stubborn’ for not changing his philosophy, however, Guardiola had a similarly difficult beginning to management on English shores. Notably the 4-1 defeat inflicted by ?Everton at Goodison Park raised serious question marks about his work, but there were never calls from the media to change his style.
Sarri may well feel that he doesn’t need to endure the current lack of respect being shown to him on and off the pitch, so would be justified on taking himself out of the spotlight.
Following the Blues uninspiring 2-0 defeat at the hands of ?Arsenal during January, Sarri launched a stinging attack on his players, accusing the group of being ‘very difficult to motivate’. There were suggestions that this comment had been taken out of context, or simply lost in translation as Sarri was not speaking in his native Italian.
However, what ensued in the coming weeks put any such suggestions beyond doubt, with the 4-0 humiliation at the Vitality Stadium prompting Sarri to produce a carbon copy of the phrase. This degree of public shaming has proved to be a high-risk strategy in the past, as Jose Mourinho found out to his demise, but does Sarri have a valid point?
Nobody outside of the Chelsea camp is neither qualified, nor knows the players well to enough to label them unmotivated, however, there was a distinct lack of effort on show during the loss to Eddie Howe’s side. So perhaps Sarri is right? Especially given that the Blues arguably put in their best performance of the season just six days earlier against ?Tottenham in the Carabao Cup semi-final; a so called ‘bigger game’.
Motivation was in no doubt when there was a cup final within touching distance, but it was arguably in question for a freezing Wednesday night trip to ?Bournemouth’s 12,000 capacity stadium one week later. If Sarri truly feels his players are unmotivated to play for him, then he would be justified in walking away.
Two Window Transfer Ban
It may well be the case that Sarri is no longer at the club when it endures a transfer embargo for breaching FIFA regulations, however, if he can steady the ship and secure a top-four finish he may be afforded the chance to continue.
Beyond the end of the current campaign, the Italian will naturally want to recruit some fresh faces that slot seamlessly into the infamous ‘Sarriball’ philosophy. But with that now looking unlikely due to a ‘serious breach’ of regulations taking place well before the Italian’s appointment, it leaves him in an undesirable position.
Given that Sarri has been reluctant to play talented youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and ?Ruben Loftus-Cheek it indicates his preference is to buy players ‘ready for the here and now’. 31-year-old ?Gonzalo Higuain has been drafted in on-loan, whilst Sarri’s trusted man, Jorginho, was signed in the summer to play the anchor role in the Blues midfield.
However, youth is going to play a vital role at Chelsea during the transfer embargo, especially given that Higuain and Mateo Kovacic are due to return to their parent clubs at the end of the current campaign.
If Sarri does not wish to work with such restrictions or doesn’t feel the current crop of Chelsea players are good enough to secure a top-four finish, he may wish to walk away before he is kicked out.