Football news - A 5-0 win leaves fans cold and Chelsea still confused
Chelsea ended a tumultuous week on a positive note. But Dan Levene senses something still far from right with the state of Sarriball.
Its a long way back from Bournemouth to London in the small hours, and Maurizio Sarri had plenty of time to reflect on that as he made the journey – not with his players in the team bus, but in the car of one of his coaching staff.
“We win together, we lose together,” has been a familiar refrain of countless Stamford Bridge bosses over the last decade or so.
Not after a 4-0 defeat, seemingly.
Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (C) celebrates scoring their second goal from the penalty spot with Chelsea's Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain (L) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Huddersfield Town at StamfoGetty Images
Wednesday was beyond abject – the club's worst Premier League defeat in 22 and a half years (or 15 managers, if you prefer to count it that way).
Saturday needed a reaction, and Sarri's Chelsea produced one.
Truth be told, anything other than a win against bottom-played Huddersfield may well have seen the wheels set in motion on Roman Abramovich's well oiled P45 printing press.
Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (L) scores their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge in London on February 2, 2019.Getty Images
And the emphatic nature of what followed was exactly what was needed.
Five goals handily cancelled out the four against – thus restoring a goal difference cushion which had been frittered away in a handful of David Luiz brain-freeze moments.
But it certainly did not iron out the wrinkles in a managerial reputation which had, in the space of 90 Dorset minutes, been screwed into a crumpled heap.
Chelsea were fortunate beneficiaries of the Premier League fixture computer: in not only facing the season's worst side; but in actually facing one of the three most dreadful teams ever to play in the division.
It was undeniably positive to see Gonzalo Higuain net his first two goals for the club: a feat not achieved on a full home Premier League debut at Stamford Bridge since Mario Stanic in August 2000.
And the release of Eden Hazard from false nine purgatory was also rewarded with a brace.
Maurizio SarriGetty Images
But Sarri, who spent an hour on Wednesday night explaining his 'philosophy' to his charges behind a locked post-match dressing room door, gave an assessment here which only led to further head-scratching.
(Incidentally, on that impromptu Dean Court summit: well-placed sources inform that Sarri asked 'What is the problem? Is it me?' - a question greeted only by an uncomfortable silence).
The Italian insisted that he saw what he likes to refer to as 'my football' against Huddersfield.
But only in the first 25 minutes.
So does that mean that four of the five goals doled out by Blues were produced by a team doing something other than what their manager wanted of them?
Stamford Bridge, a place which usually loves such a thumping; where on any other day, finishing 5-0 to the good might result in the cranking up of some 'One Step Beyond' madness; was curiously quiet.
Perhaps it was the cold? Maybe the Six Nations rugby kicking off at 4.45pm?
But Chelsea's home was probably less than half full come full time in this game: and certainly the emptiest it has been in recent memory at full time in a home win.
There is a strange sense of disaffection around the club right now.
People don't like the football; they frequently complain about poor player recruitment and development; and most matchgoing fans are yet to fully buy-in to Project Sarri.
Perhaps the boss has managed to right some of the on-pitch wrongs which caused chaos on Wednesday. Though this coming Sunday's trip to The Etihad will prove a far sterner test than rudderless Huddersfield.
But persuading the fans of that will take far more effort than this conveniently-timed exercise in taking candy from a baby required of him.