Chelsea determined to let top-four hopes go up in Sarri smoke
Over an Easter weekend where the main contenders seemed to be playing to avoid the top four, Chelsea followed suit. Meanwhile Sarri lost his cool, but not his ciggies, as Dan Levene saw the Italian inch closer to the exit.
David Luiz of Chelsea and Ashley Barnes of Burnley talk after the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Burnley FC at Stamford Bridge on April 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.
The game was a microcosm of the season once more: promising start; defensive frailties emerging; and then a whole pile of nothingness in the second half.
A draw – and all was set-up for the derby of disappointment on Sunday: the battle between Chelsea and United, for who can avoid being humiliated in next season's Champions League.
But, before that, there was a classic Chelsea meltdown – of the sort not truly seen this season, under Sarri.
Full-on fisticuffs on full-time, involving most of Chelsea's coaching staff plus the injured Antonio Rudiger (fit enough to ruck, but not to play – sure to endear him to many Chelsea fans, to be fair).
He made sure, as he exited stage right, to collect his ciggies from the dugout.
There's a man who has his priorities straight.
So upset was the Italian that he sent out his deputy, football's nicest man Gianfranco Zola, to fulfil his media duties.
“He's very frustrated, so he preferred not to come over here,” said the Chelsea legend.
Tell that to the 40,642 fans (officially – surely an over-estimate), who had battled against tube closures (planned and otherwise), a general malaise with Sarriball, and the lure of the Bank Holiday BBQ to be at the game.
“Handbags, bumbags – don't know what you're allowed to call it, without offending someone,” said Sean Dyche of the full time melee – not the greatest defence of his own staff's alleged behaviour, if that is the route he's seeking to take.
Chelsea's David Luiz and Burnley's Ashley Barnes after the match
Image credit: Reuters
Zola was about the only man from the benches not involved. “It's convenience,” quipped the 5ft 5ins Mr Nice.
If Chelsea and Arsenal and United are having a rubbish-off to avoid qualifying for it, then Sarri at least has not missed the memo from his employers.
They are desperate to recoup Champions League football: primarily for cash, brand building, and player recruitment; but also because of the havoc Europa League qualification might play with their pre-season plans in Japan.
With games scheduled against Kawasaki Frontale in Yokohama on 19 July, and Barcelona in Saitama four days later; a second round qualifying UEFA game on 25 July would be most unwelcome.
And that is what sixth place would deliver – unless their cheers for Manchester City's FA Cup success pay off; in which case they'll jump straight to the group stages instead of Pep Guardiola's men.
It's all a bit of a mess for Chelsea right now: and the rumours linking Sarri with a summer move to Roma would provide a very welcome no-fault quickie divorce for both parties, from this loveless union.
Should that come off, Sarri should at least find those rescued smokes are deemed less antisocial by his new employers.