Is it now a case of 'when' not 'if' Maurizio Sarri will crack at Chelsea?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 01 February 2019, 13:32

JUST like the Polar vortex gripping Britain, a chill wind is gusting through Chelsea this week.

Like our climate, things appear to be changing on a grand scale at Stamford Bridge.

Either side of two solid cup victories have been embarrassing defeats in the Premier League.

Manager Maurizio Sarri is scratching his head why his team is capable of the odd one-off successes, but when it comes to the grind from August through to May there is a key mental ingredient missing.

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Overcoming a 1-0 first leg deficit to beat Tottenham and reach the Carabao Cup final stirred hearts at Stamford Bridge but only because of the opposition.

A 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday sees them into the fifth round of the FA Cup and on course for Sarri to win his first trophy as a coach.

Yet a 2-0 spanking by Arsenal and utter humiliation with the catastrophic 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth hints at a lack of staying power over the 38 game league programme.

It may sound harsh but Chelsea are starting to look like nothing more than a decent cup side. Unthinkable for a club of their stature, ambition and investment levels.

After all, despite a generally quiet January transfer window Chelsea bought the single most expensive player in £58 million Christian Pulisic and the marquee signing in Gonzalo Higuain.

The inquest into Wednesday night’s demoralising loss at Bournemouth also underlines one well worn belief in football that the more things change the more they stay the same.

While Chelsea’s position among football royalty is questionable, there is no doubt that Chelsea just don’t seem able to get it right with their managers.

Sarri is the ninth full-time manager of the 16-year reign of owner Roman Abramovich. Each time there has been something slightly amiss.

Jose Mourinho was too feisty, Antonio Conte too abrasive, Andre Villas-Boas could not handle big name players, Roberto di Matteo was a default appointment in the first place, Felipe Scolari was out of his depth and Avram Grant needs no explanation.

Carlo Ancelotti is perhaps the one manager who had it sussed but in his day Abramovich seemed to enjoy sacking managers for fun.

The pressure is on Sarri again now after the midweek calamity because we all know that with Chelsea five wins on the bounce is readily replaced by one defeat on the football talking agenda.

And that may well be the problem that drives perfectly competent coaches on a pre-ordained path to self-destruction at Chelsea.

Every time there is a new managerial appointment at Stamford Bridge, journalists know the routine. There will be a period of grace and the usual proclamations that they have finally found the bloke who can deliver consistently.

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Then the first unexpected defeats creep in and then the stories emerge that the players aren’t happy; that the boss is too harsh, too soft, too distracted, too intense.

The club is so used to seeing managers gradually wilt under the pressure that it is now sadly inevitable that the air of doom and gloom hanging over the club will eventually do for all who take on the job.

It’s become part of the DNA, as much a part of Chelsea as the old Shed End, The Pensioners, the colour of the kit. Tradition they call it.

Abramovich has created a monster over the years and even though he is mellowing with age and taking less direct interest as a result of his dispute with the Foreign Office over his visa, there is still an ingrained belief that all Chelsea managers will ultimately fail.

This one is happening a lot sooner than expected of course but it’s still a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ the manager will crack at Chelsea.

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