Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is on safe ground, for now

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 21 January 2019, 15:37

Maurizio Sarri has ripped into his Chelsea players again.

Yes, it is by now a familiar story that the manager is questioning the tenacity and the commitment of his squad.

An outburst like his after the dismal 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday is becoming par for the course. Even after his team beat Newcastle United 2-1 the week before, Sarri was not happy.

If there is a sense of growing distance between the boss and his players then it will not affect his job prospects too much and it certainly won’t keep him awake at night.

Sarri can rant and rage at his players all he likes because for now at least he is not having a pop at his paymasters at Stamford Bridge.

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His predecessor Antonio Conte made that mistake way too early into his eventual two year reign. Unsubtle digs at the club’s transfer policy, pricking owner Roman Abramovich’s attitude to the club is only going to end one way. And it did with the Italian getting sacked last summer.

The man who had the job before Conte was the combustible Jose Mourinho. He was axed because of ‘palpable discord’ between himself and the players after a slowly festering divide opened up as results plummeted.

But it wasn’t only the loss of support from within the dressing room that did for Mourinho. The Special One was sacked because he was also waging war on The Football Association.

Taking a dig at referees, blaming everyone but himself for the failures at the club. It does not sit well with the people who inhabit the boardroom.

Chelsea is a different club now to the time when Abramovich was the new kid on the block, shaking up world football with his wedge of money, tearing up the transfer market, ruthlessly pursuing trophies and baubles at any cost.

He even made a point of popping into the training ground during Conte’s reign to throw his weight behind the beleaguered manager before the differences of opinion went too far.

So far, Sarri has played it cool with his bosses. Never openly slating the signings or the delays to transfer deals.

The wait for Gonzalo Higuain to join the strike force is proving agonising but it is beyond Chelsea’s control while AC Milan seek a replacement for their Argentine star.

The club has bought him one of the most sought-after young players in Europe in Christian Pulisic, who will join in the summer for £58 million.

And as much as nobody likes hearing bad things about themselves, football is a game where the dirty washing is aired in public every weekend.

There’s not much the players can say in response to a dose of realism when they have just surrendered 2-0 at the home of one of their man rivals.

On the face of it Chelsea are not in too bad a position. Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham are above them in the Premier League. They are on course for a return to Champions League football next season.

This Thursday they play Spurs at home in the semi final of the League Cup trailing only 1-0 from the first leg. They are still in the FA Cup and in the knockout stages of the Europa League.

All the while Sarri has maintained that his team is ‘a year’ behind Liverpool and City and needs time to grow and develop.

Sarri is on safe ground digging out the players for now - mainly for the fact that he is correct of course. While he is clearly explaining that to his squad there can be no arguments.

The only danger he faces is continually using the players as a punchbag can put you on a slippery slope to discord from within.

And as Mourinho, who passed through Sarri’s Chelsea office some time before him found out, that only ends one way.

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