Maurizio Sarri has achieved minimum expectations for the season. He has finished in the top four, qualified for the Champions League, and may even win a trophy in two weeks when Chelsea play the final of the Europa League. It wasn’t always pretty, or fun, and he only improved Chelsea by 2 points, but on the face of it, it’s been mission accomplished. It’s something to build from, if this is the direction we’re choosing to go.
And yet, Sarri’s future isn’t guaranteed as the man himself acknowledged after the weekend’s final Premier League match, the 0-0 draw against Leicester City that confirmed Chelsea’s third place finish.
“I think [so] but I am not sure. I don’t know.
“I can say only that the club asked me to get into the Champions League, and we reached the target. As you know very well, I love English football. I love the Premier League, the level is really the best in the world. I like very much to stay here.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Guardian
The uncertainty is certainly not out of character for Chelsea. We’ve sacked Ancelotti, Conte, and Mourinho within a year of their last Premier League titles. We sacked Avram Grant days after reaching the Champions League final. We sacked Roberto Di Matteo six months after winning the Champions League. Whether or not Sarri wins the Europa League may not matter in the end. After all, the last and only other coach to do so didn’t see the light of next season — although Benitez was unlikely to ever be anything more than an interim stopgap.
Sarri has been linked with various jobs back in Italy since the uncertainty over his job began in January, and recent reports in Italy continue to push that angle — a report this morning from Gazzetta dello Sport (via Football Italia) being the latest in that line. GdS claim that Sarri’s “troubled” relationship with the fans is a key driving factor in this potential decision, which adds yet another parallel with Rafa Benitez.
This has now been picked up by all the usual English suspects, and while it all sounds a bit far-fetched — since when do the club care so much about fans’ opinions? — chances are that GdS’s report builds on the last Chelsea briefing of the season from the Telegraph’s Matt Law, which arrived in inboxes yesterday.
Final Tottenham and Chelsea newsletters of the season written - one about Pochettino and one about Sarri. Thanks to all who signed up for them this season.— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) May 14, 2019
In it, Law paints a picture of Chelsea growing concerned by the growing divisions in the fan-base and how Sarri has “not made any effort to connect with the match-going fans”. This been especially glaring when compared to the last coach. And even though Chelsea fell out hard with Conte, apparently “it’s been privately pointed out to Sarri” that coaches like Klopp, Pochettino, and even Guardiola have created an “incredible energy” with the fans by showing a bit of passion or at least acknowledging them.
While it’s understandable that Sarri isn’t too keen to go over to fans who have chanted against him repeatedly, any relationship is a two-way street. Law’s line that Sarri has “not shown himself to be a man to take advice on board easily” seems especially damning.
For now, this all just rumor-land of course. Sacking Sarri would require a replacement (Lampard looks to be the front-runner) and an acknowledgement that whoever backed him so strongly at the club was also wrong, which may not be the easiest thing to do.
Just another big decision facing the club in a summer of uncertainty then.