Picture Source: Goal.com
In the ‘olden days,’ I’d simply look at Chelsea’s result and react accordingly. Nowadays, there are more questions than answers. “Is Sarri losing the dressing room?’ – ‘Why persist with the so-called false 9, better called fake 9’ – ‘What the hell is a regista?’ – ‘What even is Sarrismo/Sarriball?’ and perhaps most importantly ‘who’s at fault? – the players or the manager?’
Let’s face it, Maurizio Sarri might have begun his end game at Chelsea with the press conference that took place following the weekend’s defeat at Arsenal. Managerial power rarely trumps player power in SW6. Just six months into a three-year contract the Italian was so angry with the performance he was unsure he’d be able to find the words to describe it in English. Via an interpreter, he vented his anger towards the players in his native tongue.
The gist of the conversation was that the players were not giving their all for the cause. As a group, he claimed they are difficult to motivate. That being the case, why continue to pick them. Sarri needs to put the players under pressure by rotating the squad. His starting XI almost picks itself week in week out in the Premier League. The players Sarri picks seldom change.
Maybe this 2-0 loss to Arsenal will be some kind of epiphany for Sarri like the famous 3-0 defeat Antonio Conte suffered at the hands of the Gunners was for him during his first season in charge.
Clearly, there is a problem. Whether a stubborn Sarri chooses to change Chelsea’s formation ahead of the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final this week is doubtful. We do know the players who take to the field against Tottenham will probably be playing with bruised egos. How they react to their manager’s media condemnation will define their season.
They either take on board the very public dressing down they were given, kiss the badge and move forward positively or they dig in their heels, shut their ears and wait for the next manager to arrive. History tells us that ultimately there will be only one winner in a dressing room battle. The last Chelsea manager to survive four seasons was John Neal during the early eighties.
Sarri may well believe that the Arsenal loss had little to do with his tactics. However, his reluctance to rotate, make substitutions earlier than he did, continually play certain players no matter what and misplace Eden Hazard and N’golo Kante from their best positions did impact the game. Of course, it did. That’s not to say the players aren’t culpable. They are, but so is Sarri. You can’t blame the players and not blame the manager for picking them.
I know what’s coming though. ‘We should give the manager the time to get the players he needs to suit the system.’ – Well, the board didn’t back Antonio Conte after he’d won the Premier League, he was given no new players and no time. The two are self-perpetuating, a new player needs time to fit in, one doesn’t work without the other. That leads onto.
‘But, the board are backing Sarri, they brought Jorginho and they’re getting Gonzalo Higuain.’ Yes, they are, and it’s refreshing to see but has Jorginho made a real difference? Will ‘Big Hig’, the ageing striker, have an impact with the same formation in place? I certainly hope so and Sarri deserves the opportunity to fully implement his plans, but I’m doubtful much will change until Frank Lampard and Jody Morris are in the dug-out.
The best we can hope for in the short-term is unity, a couple of new players in the transfer window, a positive reaction from the players – particularly on Thursday evening – and a manager that is able to coach pro-actively.
In the longer-term, those that don’t want to be at the club and indeed, those that are not good enough need to find a new home. I’m yet to mention them but, the academy ‘kids’ have to accept their place in a system that has not always been the best with good grace. It must be about the football for them, the bells and whistles will all fall into place if they’re good enough.
The media will have a field day with all that is going on at Chelsea right now but as fans and supporters, we have to sit tight and ride out the storm. We’ve done it before and this time will be no different.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000
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