Football news - Chelsea must show patience with Sarri and trust his system
Chelsea’s recent form has set off some alarms within the fanbase but this is actually a more accurate representation of the Blues' standing under Maurizio Sarri, writes Pete Sharland.
Using Twitter as a barometer for anything is always a dangerous game but it can sometimes give you an interesting insight into the thinking of certain groups.
After a shambolic 2-1 defeat away at Wolves on Wednesday it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see the hashtag #SarriOut starting to surface, such is the remarkable short-termism of fans these days.
And before this gets into a dissection of arm-chair or fair-weather fans it is not just supporters, Chelsea as a club lead the way in the modern day trend of hiring and firing.
When Maurizio Sarri was appointed as the successor to Antonio Conte the club gave the usual spiel of wanting to change the culture, and how they were prepared to let the Italian build something at Stamford Bridge.
Of course, based on Roman Abramovich’s track record Sarri might only have his foundations built by the time the Russian changes his mind and a new contractor comes in, tears it all down and starts again.
Chelsea's Russian owner Roman AbramovichGetty Images
The concept of blowing everything up and starting over may work in the NBA but it doesn’t have much weight in football, and in particular in the Premier League, where the competition to get in the Champions League is relentless and cut-throat.
Chelsea have their own spin on ‘trusting the process’ and in fairness to Abramovich it has worked during his tenure. Since he took over they are one of just three English clubs to win the Champions League, and the only from the capital, and they can boast five Premier League titles in that time. No team has more.
Yet this constant chopping and changing of managers has had a serious negative consequences and not for the first time the effects are starting to be felt.
The initial strength of Chelsea, the group that won three league titles and tasted European success, came from an incredible spine, a strong foundation.
From Petr Cech at the back, Ashley Cole and John Terry in the defence, Frank Lampard in midfield and Didier Drogba up front, the Chelsea core was as strong as it gets. The team built their reputation on being incredibly tough to beat.
Terry and LampardGetty Images
Yet there was no succession plan, be that from the academy or from the transfer market. One by one the club legends departed and they have failed to be replaced. Those players left obvious holes that even to this day have not been filled.
As the rest of the Premier League clawed Chelsea back, either by smart managerial appoints, academy players, shrewd transfer business or a combination of all three, things stagnated at Stamford Bridge.
Trying to fill the gap with shiny new toys didn’t help and turning to old flames only left Chelsea emptier than ever.
This is a club in perpetual turmoil and, like a friend who consistently seems to make the wrong decision following the end of a long relationship, nothing seems to fulfil this organisation.
Appointing Sarri was supposed to go some way to helping, perhaps not the perfect solution but at least a step in the right direction. After more or a less decade-and-a-half of turgid football under Abramovich’s reign, two exhilarating years with Carlo Ancelotti aside, Sarri was supposed to bring the swagger back to King’s Road.
Morgan Gibbs-White of Wolverhampton Wanderers battles for possession with Willian of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea FC at Molineux on December 5, 2018 in Wolverhampton, United KingdomGetty Images
The initial signs were promising, with the magical Eden Hazard at the centre of the orchestra, conducting the show to his own beat, yet suddenly things appear off-key.
Hazard is struggling from the weight of responsibility, stop me if you’ve heard that song before, and as ever the rest of his cast have failed to step up.
So what is the reaction? Why to call for a change in direction of course!
Commitment is a long and rocky road, it’s not an easy path to reach what we want, and Chelsea are terrified of doing the work to reach a healthy place.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Chelsea celebratesGetty Images
It is far easier to run from the problems and indulge in your vices all over again.
Yes, Sarri pushed his previous team into title contention with a juggernaut powerhouse in his first season but that does not mean he should do the same thing with Chelsea.
That Napoli side was coming into its prime, compared to a Chelsea team leaving theirs, and despite the competitiveness of Italy’s top flight it cannot hold a candle to the Premier League’s top six.
Sarri is facing a Manchester City that will go down in history (and could achieve in Europe what Juventus were unable to) as well as the greatest Liverpool team in over ten years. Throw in one of the best sides Spurs have put together in their history, a resurgent Arsenal and a talented, albeit extremely volatile, Manchester United and you have a top four race for the ages.
Chelsea have suffered a blip on the journey but it has to be put into perspective what he is working with. He has two new, admittedly expensive, signings still adjusting to life in the Premier League, and one of his best players changing his entire role. Then you have strikers who can’t score goals, a back four who seemingly have forgotten the basics of defending, and a want-away superstar.
Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte managed to paper over some serious cracks during their spells in West London and Sarri is having to deal with the fall-out of that. How many of this Chelsea team are genuinely world-class? Hazard and N’Golo Kante for sure. Cesar Azpilicueta? Perhaps but even Mr Reliable’s form has taken his dip as he plays yet another different position.
N'Golo KantéGetty Images
Sarri’s Napoli were one of the most enjoyable sides to watch in recent history and Pep Guardiola called them “probably the best” team he has faced and that is why Chelsea hired him, to get back to the days before Abramovich when, led by current assistant manager Gianfranco Zola, they played some of the silkiest football in England.
To get there will take time, it will take a lot of work and there will be ups and downs, just as in life, there are no quick-fixes in football.
There are enough positives for Chelsea to cling to in the dark moments, some of the football has been truly excellent at times, and slowly but surely it seems as if Sarri is starting to trust his younger players, even if it is not as much as fans would want.
Ruben Lofus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi show what can happen when you give the academy players minutes, as does the impressive performance of 18-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White against the Blues on Wednesday, and hopefully Sarri will keep this in mind moving forward.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Chelsea is congratulated on scoring the opening goal with Eden Hazard during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea FC at Molineux on December 05, 2018 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.Getty Images
Is it going to be perfect? Probably not, but Sarri seems intent on leaving Chelsea in a far healthier place than when he arrived.
The Blues must not be afraid to let Sarri in, they have to show patience and trust his process now, not theirs.