Wednesday 26 June 2019

Comment: Why Maurizio Sarri may already be wondering why he agreed to join Chelsea

New Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri
New Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Less than a month into his reign as Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri may be asking himself why he ignored the warning signs flashing above Stamford Bridge.

While yesterday's Community Shield defeat against Manchester City at Wembley can be dismissed as a pre-seaosn defeat that meant little in the absence of a host of star names, Chelsea head into the final week of this summer's transfer window with a worrying air of uncertainly hanging over the club.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich spent £30m purchasing a penthouse apartment in London last month, but his long-term commitment to his adopted base is currently unclear after UK authorities refused to renew his visa to stay in the country and without him, Chelsea are lacking the leadership he has provided since becoming the chief decision maker 2003.

That direction appears to be wavering on and off the pitch, with the shambolic nature of Antonio Conte's sacking as Chelsea manager highlighting the confusion that currently invades all aspects of the club.

Conte was bizarrely forced to take the first week of pre-season training even though Sarri had already agreed to take his place as Blues boss, with the lack of clarity from the top of the club delaying Sarri's arrival at the club and damaging the club's pre-season plans.

Conte is now suing Chelsea over the manner of his sacking, as he claims the club's indecision blocked him from taking up managerial roles elsewhere, yet the Italian tactician who led the Blues to FA Cup glory in his final match in charge must have been relieved to escape the shambles he leaves behind.

As Sarri faced the media in Dublin on Wednesday after Chelsea's pre-season clash against Arsenal, he alarmingly admitted his team were "not physically prepared for the new season" before he addressed the question marks hovering over a host of star names.

Thibaut Courtois wants to leave Chelsea (Nigel French/PA)

First choice keeper Thibaut Courtois (above) is a transfer target for Real Madrid and seems keen to seal the move, highly paid defender David Luiz is being linked with moves away from Chelsea, midfielder Willian returned to training late as he is linked with Barcelona and Manchester United, while star man Eden Hazard has gone public in his belief that he will consider a transfer this summer.

Strikers Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi also appear to be eager to move on, but that would leave just Olivier Giroud as Chelsea's lead marksman and he has also been the subject of transfer rumours this summer.

This may be a club that has managed win trophies despite their lack of managerial stability during the Abramovich era, yet the blackened clouds of uncertainly gathering at Chelsea appear to be the most threatening yet with just four days left of the summer transfer window.

Sarri has made it clear that he wants to focus his attentions on he training ground and not the potential arrival of new players, yet he will not be able to ignore the looming transfer deadline on a number of levels after some unconvincing performances with second string teams in pre-season matches.

"There is no doubt we have to work hard to improve quickly," states Sarri, who has conducted his press briefings in English so far, despite his limited grasp of the language. "We can see there are some issues we need to resolve, but I believe we have a squad that can challenge for trophies this season at this moment.

"We have not had long to work with the players, just three weeks since I arrived here, but we want to introduce a style of football that is similar to City in some ways. Play from the back, attack where possible and show some ambition.

"Maybe we will need some time for this idea to become natural for the players, but we are working on it in training and the response so far has been good."

Sarri's optimism is diluted by the reality that he had not even spoken to key men Courtois, Hazard and Willian until this weekend and with all three keen to leave Chelsea this summer, the next few days may well define the his hopes for the season ahead.

Chelsea's eagerness to halt Real Madrid's efforts to sign Hazard may lead to him being offered the chance to become club Blues captain, yet persuading Courtois and Willian to stay will be a tough task.

"The future of Hazard, Willian (below) and the rest of the players defend on the club, not just me," continues Sarri.

Chelsea star Willian

"I want the best players to stay, obviously, but the club will decide and then we will see what happens at the start of the season.

"My method has always been to speak with players face-to-face and then we will see what the best solution if for them and Chelsea.

"I believe we can keep them here and keep them happy, but we will only see when we sit down with them."

Brazilian Jorginho is the only big-name addition to a Chelsea squad that came up horribly short in the defence of their Premier League title last season, yet Sarri still believes his side are ready to take on Manchester City in today's Community Shield match at Wembley.

"We look forward to playing City at a great stadium like Wembley and even if we accept they are a great team, we have to believe we can match them," adds Sarri.

"We played against them last season with Napoli. We can all see their ability and what a great manager they have, but we are Chelsea and we have to believe."

While Sarri is required to talk up their hopes of getting their season off to a flier, this 59-year-old tactician may well be offering these comments for public consumption in a bid to disguise a less palatable reality.

They may be a club willing to play huge wages that will attract the game's best players, but committing your future to Chelsea can only be viewed as a risky option right now and Sarri is among making that discovery the hard way.

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