I cannot remember a Chelsea manager as stubborn as Maurizio Sarri. While José Mourinho’s defensive tactics could occasionally upset fans, and Antonio Conte’s team selection would be questioned, Sarri is the worst I can recall in my lifetime.
With the Italian in his debut season, he seems to still be in the process of implementing his renowned ‘Sarriball’ system into his squad. However, nine months later and his now infamous (among the Stamford Bridge faithful, at least) tactics see him potentially facing the sack.
Though Chelsea returned to winning ways with a late 2-1 victory over Cardiff last weekend, it was far from a trademark performance from the Blues. They looked lacklustre, lethargic and depleted, and once again it was Sarri who came under the most criticism.
He has now caused a great divide amongst Chelsea fans, between those who still support him and those who want him to go. Although I remain a supporter of Sarri, he is making it harder and harder for me to maintain that position.
While poor results, an absence of silverware or a lack of confidence could result in Sarri being sacked, I believe that his stubbornness may be the killer blow for the Italian. This is epitomised in Callum Hudson-Odoi, who cannot find any gametime under his new manager.
Despite a stellar season for the 18-year-old which has included his first Chelsea goal, his first England call up and his first England start, he is still awaiting his first Premier League start. It forces us to ask “what does he have to do to even get a chance?”
With top European clubs chasing after Hudson-Odoi and Chelsea set to offer him £100,000-a-week to stay, Sarri isn’t helping the club in convincing him to remain. Without regular gametime, the Chelsea starlet will surely have to leave in order to keep his career alive.
But the Hudson-Odoi saga is not the only example of Sarri’s stubbornness. There have been far too many occasions where he refuses to take off Jorginho, however poor the former Napoli midfielder may be playing. This is mirrored throughout many of his changes, the key one being the switch of Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovačić that we see every game.
His persistence to start Marcos Alonso at left-back, despite his lack of defensive ability, is ridiculous, while the overall lack of youth opportunities is frustrating. Chelsea’s academy products of Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu have 5 Premier League starts combined- and that is a problem.
But worst of all, Sarri refuses to have a plan B – it’s Sarriball or nothing. He complains about how long it is taking to drill his system into his players, but he has only changed his tacticsonce this season, as he searched for a draw against Wolves last month.
In September 2016, Conte changed from a 4-3-3 formation to a 3-4-3 one, following a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Arsenal. That switch resulted in Chelsea winning the Premier League, all because Conte recognised the need to change. If it worked for Sarri’s predecessor, then why can’t it work for him?
It’s so frustrating for us all, and his stubborn philosophy will surely be the deciding factor on whether he remains next season. Whether Sarri will still be Chelsea manager at the end of the year is unknown, but what I do know is that if he doesn’t adapt, time will run out.