Has Sarri already made a big mistake at Chelsea?
Background photo: Vespa, CC-BY-SA 3.0
Here’s a short story you should know well. In 2016, a certain Italian gaffer journeyed to England to manage Chelsea. He blew everyone away with his pragmatic tactics and boisterous goal-celebration. Then he topped it all off by winning the Premier League. The following season, he won the FA Cup but was made to linger around the ground and take the first training session of the next campaign before being stuffed in a sack.
Sarri hasn’t learned from his predecessor's mistake
Antonio Conte’s biggest error wasn't taking the club to task for not backing his play with signings. It was how he managed the players in his care. Before his successful debut-Premier League campaign was over, Conte fell out with Diego Costa, a nasty [in every sense of the word] striker who contributed immensely to Conte's title success. Over a petty training ground spat, Costa was unceremoniously cut from the side. Big mistake.
Conte compounded the error by sanctioning Nemanja Matic's sale to Manchester United. There’s an argument Conte couldn’t have done much about that. I disagree. He was happy to replace the ferocious, daredevil midfielder with hapless, one-season-wonder Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The rest is history. Chelsea endured another poor title defence. Conte paid the ultimate price.
Conte’s implosion didn’t stop Chelsea from peering into Italy for his replacement. With a large squad to tinker, the new man in charge, Maurizio Sarri, has come face-to-face with similar problems to his predecessor.
The Blues have played 34 games this season but Sarri hasn’t found a way to keep many senior players happy. Emphasis on the word ‘many’ because it’s impossible to keep everyone happy in such a large group.
The unhappy ones
Gary Cahill tops the list. Is he still Chelsea’s captain? Only in name. Cahill has made just seven appearances for Chelsea this term. Having fallen behind Andreas Christensen in the pecking order, even a seat on the bench is hard to come by for the former England international these days.
Danny Drinkwater languishes on the fringes. He’s only appeared three times in the matchday squad. he hasn't played for Chelsea since a 30-minute cameo against Manchester City in the Community Shield. The former Premier League champion's career has taken a hit under Sarri.
Victor Moses retired from international football to focus on impressing the Italian. He hasn't. The Nigerian has since been placed in the same category as Drinkwater. They train often but are always missing from the matchday squad.
Davide Zappacosta always struggled for reckoning since he joined Chelsea in 2017. Under Sarri, the trend hasn’t changed. He’s been limited to 699 minutes from 10 appearances, mostly Europa League games. Lazio beckons.
Cesc Fabregas already packed up and left for Monaco. We know it’s because he battled unsuccessfully for playing time.
Alvaro Morata isn't Sarri's fault. The Spaniard was given too many chances to impress. His 24 outings yielded nine goals and countless misses. The Spaniard’s poor form is his Achilles heel. He’s now waiting for Atletico Madrid to make room for him at the Wanda Metropolitano. The Rojiblancos just need to be sure he signs on the correct line.
With Cesc already gone, every other player mentioned is likely to become an ex-Chelsea player by January's end. From this perspective, Sarri isn’t doing anything to keep them. Letting all these players leave would be a major howler. The Blues wouldn't have any depth. Remember what a depleted squad did to Conte? Any injury scourge that hits Chelsea would be devastating.
Chelsea fans can easily predict Maurizio Sarri’s fate if the club fails to finish in the top four or win a major trophy this season. He probably wouldn't last until next season's first training session.