After drawing with Manchester United, many Chelsea fans are wondering just how far manager Maurizio Sarri can take the club.
The former Napoli manager even believes that the Blues should’ve won at Old Trafford, especially based on their second-half performance. Yet, with the Premier League season drawing to a close and their position in the top four still unclear, the remaining games will no doubt determine Sarri’s future at Stamford Bridge.
First, pundits have pointed out Sarri’s relationship with his players as a cause for concern. According to The Telegraph, incidents earlier in the season such as goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be subbed during the Carabao Cup final cast serious doubts over Sarri’s position as an authoritative figure at the club. An obvious lack of intervention from the rest of the squad only served to solidify these doubts.
Another concern is that Sarri must also work around a pending two-window transfer ban imposed on the club by FIFA after the governing body found them to be in breach of regulations relating to international transfers of players under 18. Despite these handicaps, Sky Sports reported that the 60-year-old Italian still believes he can turn the squad into title contenders even without any new transfers this summer. Sarri has stated that the luxury of having a full pre-season to work with the squad will pay off, as opposed to his late arrival last summer that only granted him a few weeks.
The manager’s tactics have also been under scrutiny. Roberto Simone and Oliver Harbord explain how “Sarriball”, or Sarri’s brand of fast-paced and possession-based football, doesn’t take into consideration a player’s strengths and forces them to play in a system unnatural to them. One player who has definitely suffered from Sarriball is N’Golo Kante, as he’s been forced out of position because of the arrival of Sarri’s former Napoli holding midfielder, Jorginho.
Simone and Harbord argue that this obvious issue is the main problem at Chelsea rather than their mentality. They also argue that while these tactics may have worked for Sarri at Napoli, defenders in the Premier League are capable of exposing its flaws. His unwillingness to deviate from the system is what many point to as his biggest flaw. He has been known to favour players that integrate smoothly into his style, alienating the rest of the squad and rarely giving them a chance to succeed. While he may have been able to work with this at Napoli, a recent string of poor results have prompted analysts to conclude that Sarri must adapt or he could face the sack.
Yet, despite Chelsea’s performances at home, it is worth noting that Sarri has been able to lead Chelsea into the semi-finals of the Europa League. In fact, bwin has Chelsea down as odds-on favourites to beat Eintracht Frankfurt over the two legs and edge past them into the final. This may be their best chance to get Champions League football next season, especially considering that the fight for fourth place in the Premier League is going down to the wire.
In late April The Guardian noted how Sarri has reiterated his desire to stay on at Chelsea and pledged to turn the club into title contenders over the next two years. In this time, however, Sarri must also learn to adapt to the strengths of his players and solidify his authority at the club if they are to become championship contenders once again. Whether he will be allowed the luxury of time to accomplish this remains to be seen. For now, betting on Maurizio Sarri still seems like a risky prospect.