As Maurizio Sarri’s departure to Juventus has finally been announced, now is the time to reflect on his mercurial year at Stamford Bridge. Tom Overend delivers his judgement on the successes of Sarri’s divisive reign.
Maurizio Sarri has been an enigma at Chelsea. Never has a Premier League Manager produced such stark divisions within a fanbase. Impossible to fully read and never popular with a full core of fans – it quickly became a battle between the believers and the doubters. It must be acknowledged that Maurizio Sarri’s tenure has been a frustrating ordeal. Many fans have been justifiably irked over tactical inflexibility, and at times what had seemed like a blunt refusal to play our best XI in big games. Even for the most seasoned Chelsea fan, this season has provided peaks and troughs unbeknown to any of us. As a fan, my full emotional spectrum was examined last season.
From the despair I felt after that debacle at Eastlands in February, to the raw joy after Kepa’s heroics against a tricky Frankfurt side, our campaign had everything.
However, I firmly believe that history will judge the reign of Maurizio Sarri kindly – and that several of his more understated achievements should be celebrated by us all. He has left Chelsea Football Club in a far stronger state than when he inherited it almost exactly one year ago.
First – Maurizio Sarri has returned us to a familiar style of football. Nobody can deny that the back-three was no longer fit for purpose by the end of last season; and our 2017 title win using it was a distant memory. Several pundits suggested we faced at least one season transitioning out of the system, for which our squad was tailored, before any rebuild could commence. The expertise of our manager in adopting his 4-3-3 system in West London prevented any drawn-out shift.
In the process, his reign has brought about youth development on an unprecedented scale; showing the first signs of navigating players through the final transition from Academy to First XI. The emergence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi as first-team regulars has been a rare feature that has united our fanbase; and is a first-time event in the Abramovich era. Yes, this is only a start – but the youth issue has besotted the club since 2003 and Sarri has shown the first signs of a development route.
The tactical and development revolution under Maurizio Sarri lays an exciting platform for the next coach to build upon the young talent on offer at Chelsea Football Club.
Most importantly, however, he has done all of this whilst producing successful results on the pitch. In spite of several disappointing matches this season, Maurizio Sarri ultimately achieved every objective set by the club this season.
Champions League Qualification was secured before the final day, putting us back where we belong. Chelsea were a shaving of the post away from Carabao Cup glory and had the better of the final.
Most importantly, no Chelsea fan will ever forget humbling Arsenal in Baku in what was to be Sarri’s last match – not only picking up a coveted European Trophy but preventing Arsenal from reaching the Champions League too!
We wish Maurizio Sarri well at Juventus, and hope that he can build on his debut trophy that he shared with us all at Chelsea.