This is it. The last match of the season; the last chance to win a trophy; possibly Chelsea's last match under Maurizio Sarri. And everyone wants to win it, which is good.
It’s the final countdown do-do-dooo-doooo-do-do-do-do-doooo...
But what if we don’t win?
Some rumors claim Chelsea have already decided to sack Sarri; some rumors claim Chelsea have no such plans. One thing that almost all reports can agree on is the outcome of the Europa League final doesn’t actually matter in that regard. If Chelsea are to keep the coach, we’ll keep him even if we lose. And if Chelsea are to get rid of him, we’ll do so even if we win.
For Sarri, he maintains that he just wants clarification, and for his work to be judged on more than just the 90 minutes in Baku.
"My future is Wednesday, I only have to think with that. I have two years left. I will speak to the club as I want to see if they are happy with me. As you know I like very much the Premier League, it is the most important Championship, I think. I am excited to be here.
"[But] if the situation is like this [that it all would depend on one game] then I want to go immediately. Ten months of work and then everything in 90 minutes, that is not right. You are either happy about my work or not."
“I don’t know the situation about the fans and the media, one might be the consequence of the other. I can only do more by winning and improving the team. My future is the final, I am not able to think about the next season or more. I am only able to think about the final. My feeling is for my group is they deserve to win.”
Unfortunately for Maurizio, the “culture” at the club is (or at least hopefully it is still is) one of winning. We don’t (or shouldn’t) approach games with the idea or “deserving” to win. We approach (or should approach) them with the idea of “having” to win. Don’t ask what a trophy can do for you; ask what you can do for a trophy.
All that said, Sarri has achieved minimum expectations for the season, so the outcome of the final probably won’t completely determine his fate. But it would certainly go a long way towards making it more of good one, as he claims it already is.
"I think that we had a good season, with a lot of problems of course. We lost two or three matches very badly. We finished third, final of League Cup now we have the possibility of the Europa League. If we are able to win then it will be a wonderful season. This group deserves to continue and to improve more. I don’t know the date of the meeting, if there is one. It is clear I have a contract."
Complicating the task at hand are the multitude of long-term injuries to key players, such as Antonio Rudiger, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Callum Hudson-Odoi. One shorter-term injury is N’Golo Kante’s hamstring, which hopefully will be good enough for him to play.
"Of course we are trying to recover Kante. He had part of the training yesterday with the group, so we are optimistic he will be ready. No Rudiger, Loftus or Hudson.
"We finished the season tired, we had three days off after Boston. We are working and then to prepare the final. It is not easy after 62 matches as the players are tired mentally and physically."
All three of the missing players are big losses, but none more so than Loftus-Cheek, who had emerged as the clear choice to start, providing the drive, the physicality and, most importantly, the production that Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley hadn’t shown all season. It’s most unfortunate the he picked up a major long-term injury in a charity friendly with such a noble cause, but what’s done is done. We must focus on the future rather than dwelling on the past.
"In Boston the pitch wasn’t very good. With an injury like that it is not just one reason, there are many different reasons. The injury is very similar to the Callum injury. Not the same but similar. The time to recover is the same.
"Loftus has become very important for us. I am sure that he will be able to return stronger than before. One of the most important in Europe. It is difficult to say the timing of his return. Probably he will have training after five months and then to be able to play at 100%. It is different. I don’t know exactly the timing."
Chelsea have played Arsenal twice this season, winning once (a rather unconvincing and fortuitous 3-2 at the Bridge) and losing the other time (a rather abject 2-0 reverse at the Emirates). Clearly, there is room for improvement. With Arsenal needing the win to get into the Champions League, we’re certainly going to have show plenty of it.
"I think we can improve. For the fans we have to play better and win more. There isn’t another way. The final is usually an open match. Of course Loftus was very important for us in an open match, it will be difficult. They have dangerous strikers. They are dangerous as a team in the offensive phase, aggressive, so it is not easy to play them. It is a difficult match. We were in trouble in January, so now our feeling is that we deserve to win. We want a trophy for our group and our team.
"It is a risk of course. We risk to have less motivation, but they might have more pressure than us at the moment. There is a positive and negative. We didn’t want to play this game for the Champions League, we wanted that in the Premier League. We want to win the trophy."
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London
Some might say it’s the manager’s responsibility to ensure proper levels of motivation, win or lose. And so, with Sarri circling back to his season-long theme of mentality, that’s that for his last pre-match press conference of the season, and maybe of his Chelsea career.
Whether he stays or goes, we must make sure that we end this season with a trophy, not only because it will be amusing to deny Arsenal the Champions League, but because that's what we do. Winning is a habit and we must maintain/get back to it.