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Maurizio Sarri ‘on the brink’ but not quite dead man walking — reports

Not dead yet!

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Chelsea v Manchester United - FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

It’s perhaps telling that it’s taken a fifth loss in ten games for the first reports about Sarri’s declining job security to even truly start appearing. The man seems to enjoy the trust of the Chelsea hierarchy more so than just about any other coach in the Abramovich Era, except maybe Mourinho Mk.II who was allowed to lead Chelsea to a point above the relegation zone before the hammer fell — without Mourinho, Chelsea as we know it may not exist, so it’s only understandable that he was given a (relatively) long leash. Then again, even Antonio Conte was allowed to see out the season despite the clear and present personal conflict he had developed with “The Board”.

Perhaps Abramovich is softening. Maybe he’s losing interest. He’s apparently not been to a single game this season, which means that it’s been maybe a year or more since he last attended a match at Stamford Bridge (he may not have a work visa, but he’s allowed to visit the UK without any problems as an Israeli citizen). But the Guardian does report that the Chelsea owner still very much has the final say on Sarri, and will personally take the decision whether or not (or when exactly) to sack him — there have been some suggestions that Marina Granovskaia, the Emperor’s Hand, who basically runs the club otherwise, could be in danger of losing her job as well alongside Sarri, but surely such reports are misguided speculation (at worst, Granovskaia might be reassigned, but surely Abramovich won’t sack a long-time assistant and associate over something as trivial as football).

Of course, there is also the idea that Chelsea (as a club) have fully bought into Sarri (as a football prophet) and are, for the first time in the Roman Era, ready to weather any storm necessary to get his ideals implemented properly. Such conceits were not afforded to anyone before — for example, Villas-Boas was the last such football “purist” in charge, and his sacking led to the club’s only Champions League win, so what would’ve been the incentive to do so?

But reports, including Marcotti in the Times, speak of a “conscious choice” by the club to step away from pragmatism and build a footballing legacy (as opposed to a winning one?). And that could certainly mean that Sarri has a larger than normal buffer zone at the Bridge.

Marcotti claims that as long as Sarri finishes in the top four and/or win the Europa League and/or “shows signs of growth”, he “will be back for next season”.

The picture is slightly less rosy over at the Telegraph, with Matt Law writing that Sarri “could be dismissed” (could!) if he loses against either Malmo (Europa League Round of 32 second leg) or Manchester City (League Cup final). But his report appears more of a wide-ranging doom and gloom round-up (Hazard contract! FIFA ban! UEFA bans! Abramovich exit!) rather than any sort of true insider’s report of the club looking to sack Sarri. Sure, losing to Malmo might be apocalyptic, but surely the best we can hope for is not to get embarrassed again by City in the second game.

Law does report that if Sarri is sacked mid-season, Gianfranco Zola would likely take over while Laurent Blanc and Frank Lampard might be interested as full-time replacements (not so much Zidane, for whatever reason).

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