Maurizio Sarri’s highly anticipated but largely underwhelming time at Chelsea may be nearing its abrupt end. According to multiple reports, including Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard, he has basically the rest of this month to save his job. While a few reports are painting a less dramatic picture, it’s far more likely (especially at Chelsea) that the manager will be given a short leash, just like most of those who had come before him.
Chelsea have three games left in February, starting with tomorrow’s Europa League Round of 32 second leg against Malmo FF, Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, and a Premier League fixture against Spurs at home the following Wednesday. It’s not an easy stretch even in the best of times, but the club should still be expected to win at least the two home games — and maybe avoid embarrassment against Manchester City in the third, this time around.
Earlier reports of a longer leash being afford to Sarri have now fallen victim to the narrative that the Chelsea front office have been “taken aback” by the “unprecedented hostility” shown by the fans towards Sarri in the 2-0 home loss to Manchester United, and while the hostility is certainly not unprecedented like The Times claims, the club has never really considered fan opinion as the ultimate arbiter in making important decisions and they probably won’t (and shouldn’t) start now.
#CFC have been shocked by the level of dissent shown to Sarri by the club’s fans and will sack him if there is not a significant upturn in the team’s form in their next three games, reports @garyjacob https://t.co/MBeh1l73j0— Times Sport (@TimesSport) February 20, 2019
Lest we forget, this is the club that appointed Rafael Benitez to replace the rather popular Roberto Di Matteo just six months after he won the club’s only Champions League trophy. If you think “fuck Sarriball” was bad, let us take a trip back to a sunny January day at nearby Griffin Park, six years ago.
Now that’s what I call hostility. The beef with Sarri is mainly idealogical, tactical, technical. The hate towards Benitez was deeply rooted and very personal, and abated only a little bit even after Chelsea won the Europa League that season.
In any case, the list of potential candidates to replace Sarri should he end up getting his marching orders early is fairly limited, with Gianfranco Zola, Zinedine Zidane, Frank Lampard and Laurent Blanc the names most often popping up. It’s Blanc who’s being positioned as the favorite, with Zola’s lack of positive experiences as head coach going against him, though none of the other three would be too keen on an interim appointment, apparently.
Of course, Sarri’s Chelsea could still turn things around, beat Malmo easily, win the League Cup, and restore natural order against Spurs. Based on recent evidence, none of that is likely, but football can be pretty weird sometimes.