Why sacking Maurizio Sarri won't help Chelsea
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Chelsea are in a colossal mess. A 2-1 win in the UEFA Europa League away from home against Malmo may have prolonged their silverware hopes, but the 6-nil defeat to Manchester City will continue to haunt the Blues. It was their worst defeat in any competition since 1991. They were unbeaten in the opening 12 games in the Premier League, but have been jolted straight back down to earth recently.
It's shocking to see them struggling now as it wasn't that long ago they were looking like genuine title challengers. Sky Sports pundit and former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher claimed that Maurizio Sarri is turning the Blues into Arsenal; who have become infamous for getting hammered by the Premier League's elite.
Chelsea allowed Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan to gain possession in the middle of the park. Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero took full advantage of the lack of discipline and weak links between midfielders and defenders. Against Bournemouth, Jorginho was easily pressed by David Brooks which led to dangerous situations. In a 3-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur, Harry Kane was given so much space to score the second goal.
It is simple. Players are not playing the way Sarri wants them to. The Italian is not at fault. After losing a couple of games, players' morale and confidence levels suddenly drop. Sarri himself accepted that it is extremely tough to motivate certain players. They no longer press with high intensity and aggression. It's dull and ponderous. The London club simply doesn't possess players who can adapt to Sarriball.
But, Chelsea should stick with their manager. The Blues are an immensely successful club and have an extremely ambitious owner. The fact that they've had 13 different managers in the last 16 years sums the point that Roman Abramovich doesn't shy away from getting rid of someone who doesn't bring results to his table. The manager turnover leads to a complete shift in the backroom staff, which also doesn't help the squad who are continually adapting and learning new tactics.
Pep Guardiola gave Barcelona an identity through his style of play: the 'tiki-taka'. The success of Blaugrana after 2008 shows why style matters. Liverpool have done it with Jurgen Klopp by giving him the right resources and time. At Chelsea, managers fail to incorporate it into players because they are scared of not getting results. The club has never been loved for its style. But, Sarri is brave. It is what is needed at Chelsea right now. Sarri reached a record 91 points last season in the Serie A with Napoli. It required a couple of years of work. And the Russian oligarch has to keep Sarri to enjoy long-term success.
There is something which Sarri can improve, though. It's his team selection. Marcos Alonso is not suitable to play at the left-back position under the former Napoli boss. He always looks to get the ball and move forward. This leaves acres of space in behind. It breaks the defensive shape and lures opposition forwards. Sarriball is all about compactness and positional discipline. Emerson is a far better choice and he has shown he has the right skill set to play the way the manager wants.
Secondly, he can stop playing Ross Barkley and give chances to Mateo Kovacic or Ruben Loftus-Cheek [when fit]. Barkley shined for Sarri last year, but sometimes, he simply looks clueless. Kovacic's work rate, vision to get forward and the way he combines with Eden Hazard is a far better approach.
Callum-Hudson Odoi's future is still unclear. There is no doubt about his rosy potential. The winger is probably already better than both Willian and Pedro. Chelsea were able to stop his move to Bayern Munich in January, but the 18-year-old won't wait if the European giants come again.
However, Sarri deserves time. A manager should at least be given a time span of two years to implement his vision. It will only raise questions as to why the club went after Sarri and paid large sums to bring Jorginho and Gonzalo Higuain in, when they knew to establishing a playing style takes patience. Sacking Sarri would be a huge risk at this point of time, and it'd only further hurt their quest to become relevant in Europe once again.
The Blues face rekindled Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup tonight. A win would mean a world to the fans and might bring smiles back into the dressing room.