Maurizio Sarri has been outspoken about his Chelsea team over the last couple of weeks, being critical of their recent displays and one wonders if his public fallings out with his players could lead to his demise.
It is fair enough that the manager is unhappy with his team’s recent performances but slating the players publicly rarely works out for the best. Maybe he thought it would galvanise them but modern footballers are a different breed to what they used to be and they can sulk like children, downing tools on the pitch and it is the manager who generally pays the price.
Saying that ‘this is not a team known for its battling qualities’ is not the best way to inspire your team and can quickly backfire if the players decide they don’t like to be criticised like that.
Player power has seen off plenty of managers before Sarri and the recent ousting of the joyless Mourinho who had adopted a similar policy of publicly speaking out against his players at Manchester United should serve as a warning to the Italian.
Then on Wednesday night, Chelsea lost 4-0 to Bournemouth; the Cherries are an improving team under impressive manager Eddie Howe, but it was still a surprising result that more than raised eyebrows. Chelsea losing 4-0 to Bournemouth?
Something is not right in West London.
Chelsea owner Roman Ambramovich will be watching matters very carefully and is not one for sentimentality when it comes to holding on to managers who he deems unfit for the job. After the Bournemouth game, Sarri spoke honestly, saying:
‘Probably we are doing something wrong, the staff and coach first of all. Probably I am not able to motivate them. I have to find the way.’
His favoured 4-3-3 system has come under criticism, especially as it means deploying wrecking ball Kante in a more advanced role. This has been done to accommodate the on-loan Kovacic; a Sarri signing but half the player of Kante. Yes, Kante has done well going forwards and scored some goals, but he is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world and he is being played out of position. I wonder if Manchester City might be tempted to have a look, as they will soon need a replacement for the ageing Fernandinho. If Kante continues to be played out of position, he may be tempted to go to a world class team where he would be the lynchpin again.
So although Sarri talks of needing time, referring to Klopp’s first season at Liverpool where the Reds finished eighth, it is unlikely he will be given too long if he alienates his best players. There has already been a clash with Eden Hazard, the manager saying the star player must do more, with Hazard replying he ‘doesn’t care’ about criticism from his manager. This doesn’t bode well.
Next up for Chelsea are Huddersfield, which will do little to provide any meaningful answers. But after that is a trip to Manchester City, which should tell us more about how his players are responding to his abrasive ways.
Do you think Sarri will last the season or be given time to build the team around the vision he has?