Speculation is rife about the future of Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, with a huge divide amongst the fan base on whether he should remain in charge. There’s the #SarriIn movement and the #SarriOut and they’re at war. So, should he be sacked or does he still deserve more time?
I’m going to start with the #SarriOut movement. There seems to be a growing list of reasons to sack the Italian, which have only increased since Chelsea’s poor showing in Cardiff, despite getting the victory. I’ll break it down into three key parts – team selection, stubbornness and lack of youth.
One of the biggest arguments against Maurizio Sarri is his team selection, with players such as Marcos Alonso, Willian and Pedro continuing to get regular game time, irrespective of their performances.
People say you can’t blame Sarri for the players’ performances and mentality once they’re on the pitch, but can you? The players that the majority of the fanbase have come to resent (the Alonsos and Willians of the world) can seemingly drop disasterclass after disasterclass and still get picked to start the next game. If they feel as though their place in the side is cemented, it’s human instinct that you relax and become comfortable, which is where mistakes start to appear. So if Sarri actually challenged them by introducing players like Hudson-Odoi and Emerson, who are clearly good enough, it would motivate the others to improve.
There’s an example where this has actually worked this season and it’s with the case of Marcos Alonso. Emerson had been having a run of games in the league, and was rested for the game away in Kiev. Alonso came in and had a fantastic game, getting a goal and an assist as well as putting in a solid defensive performance.
The evidence is there that if you make players fear for their place, their output and effort on the pitch will increase in most cases. There’s too many players in this Chelsea team who feel as though they have security in their positions, and it’s all down to Maurizio Sarri not rotating or giving other players chances to replace them.
If you ask even the most avid Sarri fan from his Napoli days, they’ll tell you that he’s one of the most stubborn managers in the game. With his team selections, in game management and tactics, his refusal for change baffles even his biggest supporters.
At Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri has stuck rigidly to a 433 system, not even altering it once, at least from the start of the match. For the first few months, who could really blame him? It’s a formation that served him well as he took a 5th placed Napoli side to within 4 points of the Serie A title in the space of 3 years.
But ever since Chelsea’s embarrassing 3-1 loss to Tottenham at Wembley, his beloved 433 has been figured out by many coaches in the league. The Italian and English leagues have huge differences and it’s almost naive to think his system could be exactly replicated in the Premier League. Yet, eight months into the season, he persists with a system that is yielding very few results.
Sarri’s in game management is what’s lead many fans to the belief that he’s out of his depth in the Chelsea hot-seat. If memory serves me well, he has only altered his formation twice all season and that has been very late on when trailing in games. Even an in game switch to a 4231 has seen very little difference in the way we play.
Along with his rigidity of formation, it’s his substitutions that raise the most questions, as to if he actually understands the English game. He very rarely gives the opposition a problem to fix, with like for like changes his favoured choice. Top managers not only make subs, they alter the way their team is playing. Positive changes are often way more effective as the opposition have a new problem to address, which is where lapses in concentration can occur, but Sarri doesn’t see this. He’d much rather swap Barkley for Kovacic and Willian for Pedro and vice versa.
Lack of Youth
Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andreas Christensen, Ethan Ampadu. Four academy graduates. Four massively underused talents.
Chelsea have a notoriously poor record of bringing through young players, so it’s with no surprise that the fan base is desperate to see them in action. The four players listed above are deserving of more opportunities in a Chelsea shirt, especially Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek.
Maurizio Sarri has often gone for the more experienced group of players, his ‘core of 14’ which Pep Guardiola encouraged him to use, rather than play the youth, who are deserving of more minutes on the pitch.
Loftus-Cheek has struggled with a back problem, but even before that he wasn’t getting the game time his Europa League performances warranted. Similarly with Hudson-Odoi, Sarri’s refusal to play him is ludicrous if you look at the impact he has on the team every time he plays. The issue is not only the thought of losing talents like these to other teams, it’s actually a case of playing our best XI as of now. Hudson-Odoi, Loftus-Cheek and Christensen deserve a place in that team.
But what about #SarriIn? There are people who want Sarri to stay on as manager but what reasons do they give for that?
Time to Adapt
Maurizio Sarri hasn’t yet completed a full season at the club, and needs time to adapt to the league and tweak his system in order to be a success. When he was appointed, many Chelsea fans said they were prepared to give him the year, almost write it off entirely as a ‘transitional season’.
When Pep Guardiola came to the Premier League, his first season wasn’t plain sailing and he had many adverse results along the way. There’s a famous clip of a City fan moaning about the ‘tiki-taka’ style and wanting Simeone as manager instead. A year later, they were Premier League champions.
The message? ‘Sarriball’ will take time.
He needs HIS players
It’s no secret that Chelsea’s current squad isn’t set up to play in the way that Sarri wants, with defensive, counter-attacking football being the way to success for the club in recent years. It’s a mix of players all bought for different systems and it was always going to be a challenge for Sarri to succeed with them.
Once Sarri has the players that he needs in the squad, we’ll be able to judge him better, but for now, the squad isn’t giving a true reflection on his capabilities as a manager.
But is that realistic?
I see it as very unlikely that the Chelsea board go out and spend enough money and on the correct players to make Sarri a success here. Will they want to invest so heavily in a man that has massively underwhelmed in his debut season? I doubt it. And with a transfer ban still not lifted, he won’t even get the chance.
Maurizio Sarri’s debut season in England has been nothing short of a disaster. There are plenty of reasons to want him out of the club, and sacking him doesn’t seem too far into the future.
In my opinion, anyone who’s Sarri In but fails to see the negatives of him as a manager is being very naive and suffering from tunnel vision. He’s not covering himself in any glory, and if the fans against Cardiff are anything to go by, he won’t last much longer.