A contribution post by Helgi Llozana
‘’Maurizio Sarri taught me football.’’ – Dries Mertens.
‘’Maurizio Sarri can see things that the other managers can’t.’’ – Kalidou Koulibaly.
These two more than complimentary quotes regarding our manager seem to have been forgotten, or seem to be unknown for a lot of Chelsea fans, whose criticisms for the Italian, who has now entered in his eighth month in charge, are still high to say at the least.
Obviously, the strong ups-and-downs this season have been pretty evident and the need for a massive improvement is an urgency. In this piece, I will explain to you my opinion regarding this delicate situation, defending my thoughts with arguments.
First and foremost, I am ‘Sarri IN’. Just as a reminder, Maurizio Sarri was appointed as our manager on July the 14th, after a stressful and dramatic period of gossip, speculations regarding his future, and our unclear managerial situation.
The saying goes ‘better late than never’, but that isn’t really the case here, is it? Sarri was appointed late, too late. The World Cup was a disadvantage in itself, a crucial player like Eden Hazard was coming back from the holidays just one week before the start of the new season. The players would play in a new system, completely different to the one they had been used to – the 5-4-1 of Antonio Conte. But above all, no striker or defender was signed.
The season actually started quite well, the first signs were probably over the expectations. There was a promising unity inside the team and that type of football hadn’t been seen at the Bridge for a long time. Jorginho was the controller of everything, covering defensively and releasing attacks with such ease. Pedro was back to the form of his Barcelona days and despite being in his first season, Maurizio Sarri was going toe-to-toe with his colleagues Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, respectively in their fourth and third season in charge.
Then, after the loss against Tottenham at Wembley in November, things went sour. The players weren’t showing the right mentality, the level of performances wasn’t qualitative at all, but boring and dull, and even Sarri himself admitted this wasn’t what he wanted to see and build during this long-term process.
The Arsenal loss made him show his feelings more than ever and after this, the club reacted with the signing of Sarri’s trusted front man, Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentinian striker who in his only season under Sarri, managed to score an impressive 36 goals in 35 games.
There was nothing that Higuain could do though to avoid the shambolic and shocking 6-0 loss against Manchester City and the FA Cup exit against Manchester United a week later. Two losses that harmed the reputation of the manager massively. Match-going fans calling for his head, the media joined in by adding sacking rumours, and the atmosphere inside was described as going ‘from bad to worse’.
So why do I still back Sarri?
Well, despite the league position, if we play like we did in the last two games, then finishing in the top four and winning the Europa League is a real possibility. Sarri has loved being here since the very first moment. He refused to carry on with his childhood club and turned down a big-money move to Zenit.
Most logical and rational fans knew very well that this will be a process and it couldn’t happen overnight. A lot of players don’t deserve to play for our club right now and Sarri has made moves to offload or at least decrease some of these players role at the club.
Victor Moses signed for Fenerbahce this January, while players like Gary Cahill and Danny Drinkwater have not been making his squad. I know his treatment of youth can be way better, but against City, I liked the fact that Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were at least given solid minutes in a Cup Final against a very strong opponent.
So, Maurizio Sarri is here to build a team for the present and for the future. He isn’t just dealing with ‘on pitch issues’, but also he has to revolutionise and develop the mentality with a lot of fans the old-fashioned idea of ‘the only way to win is defending deep inside your own half’.
In the last two games, Sarri has proven that he can adapt. He can be more pragmatic when needed, without forgetting at all the attacking, proactive and offensive brand of football he is trying to instil. Give the man a full pre-season, and with hopefully a positive response coming from the transfer ban appeal, provide him the best tools to build the sophisticated castle now widely known as ‘Sarriball’, a castle that is for sure the way forward and is the right foundations for our club.
Written by Helgi Llozana