Sarri's Tired Chelsea Wobbling As He Goes Head To Head With Guardiolaby Andy Dillon / 07 December 2018, 13:05Tweet
PEP GUARDIOLA has a European Cup and six La Liga titles. Maurizio Sarri did not land a full time coaching job until he was 46.
This may explain their starkly contrasting ideals on squad rotation as the two men prepare to meet for the first time as Premier League managers and on vastly different vibes.
Manchester City are top of the table and ten points ahead of Sarri’s Chelsea who are recovering from two defeats in the last three league matches.
All of a sudden the promise of spectacular Sarri-ball football is going to have to go on hold while Chelsea dig out a few points at the busiest time of the season.
It will also put Sarri’s laid back public demeanour to the test as he faces up to a few home truths about the state of Chelsea’s squad and his approach to the toughest league in the world.
The collapse at Wolves on Wednesday exposed again the feeble defending in particular that Chelsea have been cursed with this season.
Andreas Christensen in particular targeted for criticism, just as his team-mate David Luiz suffered brutally in the aftermath of the 3-1 destruction at Tottenham last month.
Luiz has no excuse as a Premier League regular. He has played in all but the last of the club’s 15 league games this season. Christensen has not.
The young Dane was recalled in the week and catapulted into the firing line from the backwaters of being restricted to the Europa League and EFL Cup. That’s not an easy step up at a moment’s notice.
Luiz was on the bench so we can assume he was fit. Ruben Loftus-Cheek also started, as did Cesc Fabregas. Sarri’s idea of rest and recuperation is a strange one.
Over at City, tomorrow’s opponents, manager Pep Guardiola routinely changes his entire back four as part of a revolving door policy.
The defence that won at Watford on Tuesday night was totally different that which trounced Bournemouth in the previous game.
What that does is keep everybody in the squad on their toes and in touch with the Premier League so they are ready for the unique tempo of English football. They are not thrown in at the deep end on a whim.
Sarri argues that Chelsea are ‘a year behind’ City and he is probably right although he is yet to explain in precisely what context.
And do they have to be? Not long ago Andreas Christensen was being talked up as a future captain of Chelsea. He went to the World Cup and performed well.
Now he sits frustrated in the background watching Luiz take his place and looking forward next week to a meaningless European match in Hungary. Hardly the stuff to get an ambitious 22-year-old pumped up.
Sarri can go one of two ways here. He can accept that Chelsea have a decent first team but that the squad as a whole is second rate - at least compared to City’s.
If that’s ok with everybody at Stamford Bridge, fine just get on with it. But then don’t be surprised when star turn Eden Hazard up sticks and leaves at the end of the season to join Real Madrid.
Or he can start putting pressure on his Chelsea paymasters to start revamping his squad and in the meantime take a leaf out of Guardiola’s book and mix things up a bit more on a regular basis.
Sarri deserves enormous credit for transforming his life from a banker to a bona fide A-list coach. But this is where perhaps not being a player - like Guardiola was - is kicking in.
Chelsea’s manager cannot understand the physical and mental exertion of playing at the highest level and nobody expects him too. But that is where he is at a big disadvantage to those who have.