Following emphatic defeats to the hands of Bournemouth and Manchester City and elimination from the FA Cup at the last 16 stage, Maurizio Sarri has found himself under immense media pressure and is being hotly tipped to be the next in the long line of disposed Chelsea managers, but is Sarri the problem? Or has Chelsea’s cynical culture become unsustainable and are they paying the price for it now?
In the last few years, Chelsea have become somewhat of an enigma. It may sound foolish to say when you see that they have won a Premier League title and an FA Cup within the last two seasons, but Chelsea now are really being pushed in what is arguably their most challenging phase of Roman Abramovich’s tenure.
Since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea back in 2003, the Russian has oversaw radical change at Stamford Bridge both on and off of the football pitch, with five league titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Europa League and a Champions League title. The investment from Abramovich has helped the club transform from a promising side battling for Champions League qualification to a super club across Europe and one of the most feared teams in England. However, with success comes sacrifice.
In spite of Chelsea’s success over the last 16 years, the club have become accustomed to change with the club appointing 12 managers within the last 16 years.
The Blues and Jose Mourinho seemed to be a match made in heaven when the Portuguese prodigy swapped his Champions League winning Porto side for Chelsea back in 2003. The foundations of success were laid when a young Jose Mourinho delivered a league title and a league cup in his first season at the ripe age of 41, which was followed up by another league title the following season.
It seemed that Chelsea were set up to become the most feared team in England for decades to come, an oligarch chairman willing to throw his money where his mouth is and a young hungry manager already with a flattering trophy cabinet and an aura to attract the elite players over to Stamford Bridge regardless of cost.
However, underwhelming results coupled with a series of disagreements with Roman Abramovich saw Mourinho depart the club by mutual consent early into the 2007-2008 season.
Since then, no manager has lasted for three seasons or more. Carlo Ancelotti achieved the Premier League and FA Cup double in his debut season yet was relieved of his duties at the end of the following season despite a second place finish and the third highest win percentage in Premier League history.
Chelsea have developed a culture of short term success, appointing high-calibre managers and spending big on some of the elite talent across Europe whilst ignoring the glittering plethora of youth talent within their ranks. However, this is not a model that is sustainable and they are beginning to see the repercussions of this approach.
In the case of Maurizio Sarri, the club have appointed a manager that will not take Chelsea back to the summit of English football overnight. Sarri’s Napoli were scintillating to watch and breathed fresh air into the Serie A title race in the last two seasons, but it is worth noting that Napoli did not become that time over night and needed time to implement those philosophies and core values into that side.
“Sarri-ball” seemed to be in full flow early on in the season, with his side looking compact in midfield with his attack looking very potent. However, Sarri’s fortunes have changed since his trip to Wembley to face Tottenham back in November, for example, Jorginho who looked to be metronomic in the early stages of “Sarri-ball” was completely taken out of the game once Dele Alli man marked the Italian all game, cutting passing lanes and pressing the Italian at any given chance.
Since this, Chelsea’s midfield which was arguably their strongest point at the start of the season has become arguably their most disjointed area of their system. N’golo Kante is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and is Chelsea’s best midfielder is being played out of his natural position in order to accomodate Jorginho who has been sussed out by most teams just half a season into his Chelsea career, yet with a £50 million price tag, he must be some sort of asset to Sarri.
Sarri has to take some of the blame for the way this season has gone thus far, at the end of the day he picks the team that goes out each week which means in modern football society the buck will stop with the manager.
However, this Chelsea squad has seemed to down tools over the years when things get tough with Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho both feeling the wrath of the Chelsea dressing room which would support Sarri’s argument that his players lack desire.
Sarri should he become a success at Chelsea it will be as a result of backing, history would suggest that such “project” managers like Sarri i.e Andre Villas-Boas would not be afforded time to turn their fortunes around.
The truth is that Chelsea under Roman Abramovich will be able to dispose of managers and players with a simple snap of the fingers because simply they can afford it, Chelsea fans will find it hard to emotionally attach to anyone in the hot seat at Stamford Bridge because they are most likely not their for the long run. What the club are missing is sustainability and someone who can lay the foundations for years to come and generate a feel good factor around the club, the same way Mourinho did back in 2003 albeit for just a few years.
Tottenham Hotspur remain trophyless under Mauricio Pochettino and whilst this is becoming somewhat of a stick to beat Pochettino and Spurs with, there is a real feel good factor around the club at the minute and installs security and sustainability. Whilst financial circumstances between the two are very different, the club’s league positions have been comparable in the last few years. Whilst Chelsea have won more than Tottenham, Pochettino has built the foundations for success genuinely whilst creating hope and optimism amongst Spurs fans. Whilst Chelsea’s burning and relentless desire for short term success will leave them with a lack of soul in the long term future of the club.
As they say: “Money can’t buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.”
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