Maurizio Sarri boldly declared at the start of his Chelsea career that the transfer market bores him to no end and that he’s only interested in the football. It must’ve been music to the Chelsea front office’s ears, following the tenures of José “buy success now” Mourinho and Antonio “you should not expect another miracle” Conte (not to mention the departure of Michael “Loan Army General” Emenalo).
Seven months later, Sarri reportedly wants the club to overhaul the entire squad and give him strong leaders capable of learning, understanding, and playing the system.
Is that all?
Maurizio Sarri is worried that he lacks the players to implement his game plan at #CFC and will push for a complete overhaul of the squad this summer if he remains in his job, reports @MattHughesTimes https://t.co/sCZnOaeOvB pic.twitter.com/pjvnFqnT19— Times Sport (@TimesSport) February 12, 2019
At the moment, it would appear that Sarri has the full support of the front office, including Marina Granovskaia who was the main proponent for his hiring. Given the acrimonious end to Conte’s tenure, the Board is likely to support Sarri to the very limits of reason, though not beyond any failure to qualify for next year’s Champions League. Whether that will include a squad overhaul however is unclear, but Sarri has made it quite clear that his methods are set in stone and if Chelsea want to bask in the true glory of Sarri-ball, we’re going to need Sarri-ballers instead of this sorry lot. Or something.
Nothing unusual at Cobham today. Sarri taking training as normal, beginning preparations for Malmo on Thursday #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) February 11, 2019
Will Chelsea back the coach fully? Will we give in to “player power” again? It’s a familiar conundrum, and there are conflicting reports about how far along the usual “palpable discord” path we may be already.
The Times claims the relationship between head coach and players has not yet reached a boiling point. Sky Sports says the “majority” of players remain behind him and still believe in his “methods”, despite disagreements on tactics and the role it played in the deep embarrassment of the Manchester City loss. Spain’s AS says Sarri’s hours are numbered and he’s already lost the support of the “heavyweights” of the dressing room. The Mail says there are “concerns” about tactics and morale is flagging rather dangerously despite clear-the-air team meetings. Goal reports that a “number” of players are unhappy, not only with the results but the training — and they’re not the first to do so in recent weeks. And so on and so forth.
Either way, it’s a situation we’ve seen many times before, and it only ends one way.
“I know exactly what [Sarri] wants to do. [...] People don’t understand how difficult it is.
“I said many times, my first year was difficult too. Some moments we played good but not consistently. People expect ‘Okay, manager arrives, he buys players and immediately come [results]’ — it needs time. It depends on the belief from the owners, the people who are in charge; they really need to believe in that.
”The main reason I decided to come to Manchester City is because my bosses, the chairman specifically, I didn’t have to convince him. He knows me. When it’s not going good, we try to find a solution. He doesn’t think I’m good when I win and bad when I lose. That is the reason why I am enjoying this period at this club.”
-Pep Guardiola; source: Sky
Chelsea missed out on Guardiola for reasons that should be obvious given quotes like the above, but now have Guardiola-lite, so the moment of truth is close at hand. Are we, as a club, willing to go full Sarri-ball, willing to tie the future of the club to his idea(l)s as we once did with Mourinho?
In general though, I don't think it's too strange to think that it takes time to reach an intended style/level (see also: Klopp's Liverpool and Pep's City). Whether or not it is reached is another question. Link to the Pako screengrab above is here https://t.co/ytKhEZbevZ— Alex McGovern (@AlexMcGovern11) February 1, 2019
Either way, an overhaul may be necessary. There are no attacking players currently in the first-team squad who are signed beyond next season. Christian Pulisic is set to arrive, but who will he be playing along and behind? That question will need to be solved, with or without Sarri as well.