What exactly did Chelsea expect from Maurizio Sarri?

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 12 February 2019, 14:53

There’s no doubt about it. Chelsea’s 6-0 defeat to Manchester City was an abject humiliation for boss Maurizio Sarri, the players, the supporters and the entire club itself.

Such embarrassment versus a top-level rival is always going to trigger a need for a scapegoat among fans, but the anger shown towards the Italian boss from both the media and supporters is misplaced.

Sarri was linked with the London club as far back as October 2017, which is when this author wrote this Sack Race column with the following warning about his potential appointment.

"Firstly, his success with Napoli this term has been steadily built, and the fruits of his labour are just beginning to show at the start of his third season in charge.

"Hard-graft in training with a drone and consistent drills has educated his squad in the skill of his passing game that has become known as “Sarrismo” but the key to his success is largely based on a settled squad.

"With limited experience even in the Italian top flight, it is difficult to imagine that he would be able to seamlessly slot into Chelsea’s setup and even more implausible that he would deliver the kind of immediate results that would be required of him."

This was not “inside information” or anything inaccessible to followers of the Premier League - or even club owners - if they just invested a little bit of time and research.

You can accuse Sarri of anything except being inconsistent in his approach, and for this reason it is simply inexcusable for Chelsea not to have realised that their current situation was bound to happen.

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Maurizio Sarri is a maniac in terms of his attention to detail. He is cantankerous, old fashioned, with his friend and former Empoli employer Fabrizio Corsi admitting that the pair “almost came to blows” when they worked together.

The way Napoli played in their third season under Sarri was the reward for the patience and trust that owner Aurelio De Laurentiis showed during the two previous campaigns. If Chelsea didn’t want to display that same judgment, why did they hire him at all?

Sarri’s good points and bad points are nothing new. It was Chelsea’s responsibility to understand this when they hired him, and expecting him to change his personality or style of football is akin to shouting at clouds.

“People don't understand how difficult it is. I said many times, my first year was difficult too,” Pep Guardiola sympathised to Sky Sports after the match. “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.”

It’s the same with the tired excuses that Sarri has never won anything in his career, and that his success in Serie A is because the Italian top-flight is weaker than the Premier League.

Again, Chelsea were aware of their prospective Coach’s lack of trophies but were seduced - just like the same supporters who are now complaining about lack of results - by Napoli’s slick and easy-on-the-eye passing game.

All 20 Serie A teams are led by Italian bosses, a factor that is undoubtedly due to the rigorous education provided at the Coverciano base.

Tactics are complex and well-thought out even at clubs in the bottom half of the table in Italy, and to dismiss this is to provide a clearly ill-informed response.

At this point, the London club have a decision to make; either ride with the tough times and hope that Sarri can revolutionise the side that he has been given to work with, or sack him and move on.

The latter option would prove sheer ineptitude at a club level, with a thought process that deems these failures down to the Coach when all he has done is exactly what he did before.

This is who Maurizio Sarri is and nobody, least of all those at Chelsea who recruited him, should be remotely surprised.

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