When the story of Chelsea’s interest in Maurizio Sarri broke, it was also reported that the situation would be handled before May 31st, as that was when the Napoli head coach’s release clause expired. In 48-hour increments since, the Sarri deal had been expected to close, but all those reports have been proven wrong thus far.
And so, here we are heading into preseason on the 7th of July — about a month away from the end of the transfer window (on 9th of August) and the start of the season (11th of August) — still without a settled head coaching situation, let alone any new signings.
Our non-World Cup players returned to Cobham this morning as pre-season got underway...— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 7, 2018
Great to see you back, lads! https://t.co/RZOPpLGBl0
If the situation sounds utterly unbelievable, it’s because it actually is.
While most reports in the last week adamantly stated that Chelsea will definitely finalize Sarri’s move this week before the beginning of the preseason, it seems that Chelsea have failed to do just that. In fact, the only head coach present at Cobham this weekend is the one and only Antonio Conte. He did not oversee the start of preseason, which involved medical and fitness tests, but he was there.
For those wondering/speculating. Conte was at Chelsea's training ground today, but he did not do the players' medical tests etc. Pre-season training, which he has prepared for, starts on Monday. Amazed he is still head coach, but that could change at any moment.— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) July 7, 2018
Conte’s ready to go on Monday with the real training, though Law still regurgitates the “the situation could change any moment” line that we’ve heard for weeks and weeks now.
The Evening Standard’s Simon Johnson brought similar tidings of the continuing mess at the club, with one coach expected to get to work even as the club still actively works on replacing him as soon as possible. A “political mess” may be an understatement.
#cfc pre-season will get properly under way on Monday. Today was just the standard fitness & cardio tests players go through on first day.Conte plans to take session in two days’ time but club still working on Sarri. One source describes situation as ‘political mess’.— Simon Johnson (@sjstandardsport) July 7, 2018
While Conte’s pre-season is likely to be heavy on fitness as before, these sessions are also used to drill the tactics, the off the ball and on the ball movements, the attacking and defensive organization, among many other things, into the players. Conte and Sarri’s contrasting styles mean that if the former starts this process, the latter will by definition be at a disadvantage already when (if?) he begins work at some indeterminate point in the future.
Conte’s presence also raises questions regarding the futures of Willian, David Luiz, and Eden Hazard. We can afford to lose the first two, but probably not the latter, who’s having an excellent World Cup. Hazard had possibly minor reservations about Conte, but what he’s wanted to see is Chelsea showing some ambition. Chelsea have done very little at all, let alone show ambition ... except maybe send all the wrong signals to current and future players.
This situation needs to be resolved now, to say the least. Not in the next week, in the next 48 hours. Now.