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As the teams around Chelsea continue to drop points; rather than taking advantage, Maurizio’s Sarri’s team depressingly fail to capitalise. A place in next seasons Champions League ought to be wrapped up by now and the fact that qualification is still in our own hands is nothing short of miraculous.
Last time out against Burnley, it was defensive frailties, that have been a feature of Sarri’s first season in charge that was our undoing. After going a goal down, Chelsea did well to quickly pull themselves back into the game before once again conceding a sloppy equaliser. Without someone on the pitch to take the game by the scruff of the neck and apply some real pressure to Burnley’s stubborn defence, a winning goal never came.
Whilst some of Chelsea’s starting XI need to have a close look at themselves, Sarri’s reluctance to change the game with substitutions that could offer something different for the opposition to think about has also hampered results. Gonzalo Higuain has by no means ‘pulled up trees’ since he’s been in the Premier League. However, he was having one of his better games. Clearly, he was disappointed at being substituted. That at least was a good sign. Why didn’t Sarri bring on Giroud for one of the midfielders though?
It’s that lack of in-game management and adapting to what the players can actually achieve that has let Sarri down this season. Personally, I’ve no interest in what he thinks he’s trying to do. If it’s not working, you have to try something different. There’s no reason to not continue to impart his philosophy on the squad but the reluctance to be more flexible will be his downfall. I would not have a problem with starting each game in the manner of his choosing, but if it’s not working, adapt to the given squad and opposition. Rinse and repeat.
Sadly, Turf Moor was the last time we’ll see Callum Hudson-Odoi this season, maybe it will be the last time we see him in a Chelsea kit….ever. Let’s hope that’s not the case, but the club have plenty of negotiating to do if he’s to stay.
Chelsea travel up to Old Trafford on Sunday for a game Manchester United must win if they are to remain in realistic contention for the top four. Victory for Chelsea would leave them in pole position for a seat at Europe’s top table. Chelsea’s form against the top six sides this season has been nothing short of pathetic, compared to what’s expected. That has to change on Sunday.
Goalkeeper – Rob Green’s time at Chelsea may be coming to an end. It would be fitting if he were to be given a chance at playing just one game. However, it won’t be this one. It will be Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal on Sunday.
Defence – Despite the hate he gets from some, I still like Cesar Azpilicueta. I think he’s tried his best to step up to captaincy, even though he’s clearly out of his depth. I like his passion even if it comes across as slightly faux. I’d like to see David Luiz play in midfield. Sarri will play him in the back four though alongside Antonio Rudiger, back from injury. The left-back spot has been an Achilles heel for Sarri all season and Antonio Conte the season before. The club really should have addressed this problem by now. Marcos Alonso has been struggling with a hip injury for a while now, Emerson is the only other option.
Midfield – Whether you support Sarri or not, it’s been unfair to boo Jorginho during games. He should be treated like any other Blue and given our full support. N’golo Kante was taken off as a precaution against Burnley and should be fit to take on United. The amount of ground the Frenchman can cover will be crucial if Chelsea are to take anything from the game. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is Chelsea’s best attacking option as the third midfielder. However, Sarri may opt for the more flexible Mateo Kovacic as he looks to get something from the game. I’d go full on attack though.
Attack – We know there’s no CHO on Sunday, so that limit’s Sarri’s options somewhat. The big fear is, for me, Sarri returns to playing Eden Hazard in the ‘false nine’ role he favours against better opposition. He used it against Liverpool a couple of weeks ago and it worked during the first 45 minutes, I’m not a fan, but I expect him to go the same way against United. That being the case the final two places are obvious. Pedro and Willian will be Hazard’s wing-men in the push for Champions League qualification.
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Emerson, Jorginho, Kante, Loftus-Cheek, Willian, Pedro, Hazard
Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000