With just one game to go on what has been a tumultuous season for Chelsea Football Club, we can all look forward to once again lining up in the Champions League. If Chelsea are operating under a FIFA imposed transfer embargo and Maurizio Sarri is still at the club, the chaos that has ensued this season will without doubt amplify. For me, he has to go.
Sarri has divided Chelsea’s normally passive fan base like no other in their history and let’s face it, there have been plenty of contenders.
Rafa Benitez during his short spell at the club was universally disliked by every supporter. His arrival created toxicity within the club following statements he’d previously made about Blues fans and of course his association with Liverpool. His arrival though didn’t initiate a civil war on social media as Sarri has.
Over time a section of the club’s supporters grew to respect Benitez for the professional manner in which he operated, but there was never any kind of connection between the two. As Sarri could, Benitez left the club having won the Europa League. Benitez was always going to go having been bought in as interim following Roberto di Matteo’s departure.
Before Benitez, there was Luiz Felipe Scolari, he was the Premier League’s first World Cup-winning manager and his attempts at managing in the toughest league in the world proved more difficult for the Brazilian. Like Sarri, who has bought in his own playmaker, Jorginho, Scolari came with Deco. Jorginho may yet prove to be worthy, Deco, in all honesty, struggled. Scolari didn’t last long in London, Roman Abramovich’s trigger finger being somewhat twitchier back in the day. Jump forward a couple of years and it was a Jose Mourinho protege about to hit the firing line.
In many ways, Andre Villas-Boas, another underwhelming appointment, ought to draw the most analogies with Sarri. He arrived with a big plan to overhaul and lower the age of the squad and play a high pressing game. The team he inherited from Carlo Ancelotti were simply unable to cope. Where Sarri initially got good results, AVB did not. His side struggled from the off and that continued throughout his tenure.
There’s no doubt that Villas-Boas would have divided the fan base in the same way Sarri has though. The ‘Yer da’s’ would be pining for the likeable, nay, loveable Carlo Ancelotti – some still are – and Jose Mourinho’s former assistant would be being lauded as the new messiah by his band of ‘cultist’s’ as he looked to impart his teachings.
Sarri came to Chelsea after the club had an acrimonious falling out with another Italiano. In his first season, Antonio Conte was adored by the Chelsea faithful who transformed the team Jose Mourinho had all but ruined into Premier League winners. It was the club’s owner and director’s failure to back him in the transfer market that started the ructions that would continue throughout Conte’s second season.
As the players on the field suffered without the ball and Conte switched from chalk to cheese as he sulked up and down the touchline, the fanbase began to turn on him. It was sad to watch this once effervescent man simply go flat. His departure was a long drawn out affair – too long – and that’s where the split in the fanbase began.
Some – you decide – just couldn’t hate Conte, they wanted to see more of that first season. The passion, the team all pulling together for the greater good. All for one and one for all. They/we couldn’t let it go.
Ridiculously, Conte remained the coach until one week into Chelsea’s pre-season in 2018 when Sarri was appointed. Even at that early stage, there was a split in the fan base, many were underwhelmed with the appointment of someone with so little pedigree. The Blues hierarchy softened the arrival of Sarri by naming, fan favourite, Gianfranco Zola as his number two.
Cards on the table, I want Sarri out of the club. I don’t dislike the man, in fact, I feel for him. For those that say he should be given time, I say he has been given time. He’s had a whole to get his thoughts and ideas over to his squad of players and they are still struggling to deliver what he is asking of them.
Where he’s unfortunate is, there are no leaders on the field. No one is willing to stand up – like a John Terry – and take the game in a different direction when things aren’t working. Every other manager up to this point has had a core of players willing to put their necks on the line for the greater good.
I don’t want to make this about match-going fans versus the TV audience – both have valid points of view – but I watched Sarri closely during the recent Europa League semi-final against Frankfurt and I thought he was appalling in the way he behaved. Those that go to games do get a different perspective from those at home and in bars. The camera’s show very little of what goes on along the touchline.
Sarri is an angry man. In itself, that’s not a problem, we’re all different. It was during the breaks during extra-time and penalties that staggered me though. He didn’t speak to one Chelsea player during those times. To me that’s unbelievable. I’m not having ridiculous superstitions as an excuse. Always putting your left sock on first – that’s a superstition – not entering the field of play when you’re a football manager is not – that’s a phobia – get help.
Sarri, like AVB is not the right fit for Chelsea Football Club, not his fault, but he isn’t. I hope he leaves the club having won the Europa League as Rafa Benitez did and he can move on satisfied with his own achievements in SW6.
As for the club itself, there are big challenges ahead if they are to get themselves back on the right track. Those so much of a soap opera about the club. It’s chaotic and anarchic and I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000