Famed after a distinct playing style that made him a household name first at Empoli and later at Napoli, Maurizio Sarri first season in Chelsea is already a nightmare.
His famous Sarri-ball has been less than effective and at a club where the owner’s patience wears thin faster than the speed of light, he may well be on his way out of reckoning at Stamford Bridge.
Maurizio Sarri’s impressive stint at Empoli, where he guided them to Serie A after finishing second a year after losing the Serie B play-off final, landed him a job as Rafael Benitez’s replacement at Napoli in the summer of 2015.
While he was with Napoli, the team won more games (25) and scored more goals (80) than any other season following their promotion to a 20-team Serie A in 2007, and Sarri’s efforts were recognised as he was awarded the Panchina d’Oro – handed to the best coach in a Serie A season.
Also, Gonzalo Higuain – now reunited with Sarri at Chelsea – breaking a Serie A record with 36 league goals in the 2015-16 season.
Yes, the 60-year-old’s attractive ‘Sarri-ball’ approach received many plaudits during his three years at Napoli, but he is yet to add a trophy to the individual accolades he has been awarded.
Presently, his Chelsea spell has been marred with struggles and has alienated the fans: with his refusal to adapt his system, many fans growing frustrated at his repetitive substitutions.
In fact, Sarri after the 2-0 loss at home to United in the FA Cup on Monday agreed that his team now plays “confused football”.
To some, the replacement of Ngolo Kante with Jorginho in the defensive position is the reason for Chelsea’s ills. Others say Chelsea’s defence is too weak especially the left wing-back, Marcos Alonso, while some others explain that Sarri’s rigid remains the reason for the woes.
Of all the reasons, Sarri’s inflexibility encompasses it all. Sarri does not have a plan B. Much like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or Arrigo Sacchi.
Maurizio Sarri has made 124 substitutions since he’s in charge of Chelsea, Rose Barkley on for Kovacic 13x, Pedro on for Willian 8x, Kovacic on for Barkley 7x, Giroud on for Morata 7x, Willian on for Pedro 6x. Willian subbed off most (22), followed by Kovacic 2nd (19) and Pedro (18)
In December Sarri openly acknowledged he was adviced by Guardiola.
“He told me you have to work only on 14 players otherwise you are in trouble. You need too much time to improve all the squad.”
However, Guardiola changed his formation and line-ups all the time in his first year. Never the same team. And he used a lot of players too.
Besides that, Kelvin De Bruyne said, “We only train tactically 15 mins per day. But we learn to switch between different systems 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-6-1…”
Chelsea were unbeaten in their opening 12 games of the Premier League season and looked like potential title contenders – ‘Sarriball’ was working.
However, a 3-1 defeat to Tottenham put an end to that run and has been followed by five defeats in 13 league games.
Chelsea now occupying the sixth in the Premier League – one point behind fourth-placed Manchester United – and suffered a humiliating 6-0 against Manchester City two weeks ago.
A 2-0 loss at home to United in the FA Cup on Monday piled the pressure on Sarri, and perhaps his next game will play a role in keeping his job.
Sadly, Sunday is the Carabao Cup final and the opposition at Wembley will be Manchester City. Do not bet your salary on Chelsea winning it.
Paul Merson, a football pundit, believes Sarri’s replication of his strategy at Napoli seems “lazy” at Chelsea.
Like many other Chelsea fans, Merson is eager to see how Sarri approaches Manchester City game, insisting it will be the same result if tactics aren’t altered.
“I can’t wait until Sunday. Not as a Chelsea fan thinking: ‘We could win here,’ I just want to see what he’s going to do,” said Merson.
“I can’t wait to see how he sets up. If we play the same way, we’re going to get the same result, and it won’t be far off six,” he added.