Saturday 23 March 2019

Matt Law: 'Maurizio Sarri booed off but it's his players who deserve blame'

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri pictured during their defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri pictured during their defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

Matt Law

As David Luiz stood in conversation with Marcos Alonso during a stoppage in play shortly after Manchester United's first goal, it was clear the Chelsea blame game was well under way.

Chelsea fans later revolted against head coach Maurizio Sarri, singing "f*** Sarri-ball" and chanting the name of former midfielder Frank Lampard. But the players cannot be allowed to get off the hook.

There was head shaking, shrugging of shoulders and outstretched arms, as Luiz and Alonso appeared to debate just who was at fault for Ander Herrera's opener. Minutes later, Luiz had his arms outstretched asking how United had been allowed to double their lead on the stroke of half-time.

This group of Chelsea players might keep trying to tell us they are not an impossible group to pull together, but it is increasingly clear they cannot manage themselves.

John Terry was in the Chelsea media lounge before the game and he must have been among those wondering where the Stamford Bridge leaders have gone. It's not easy to find anybody eager to take responsibility.

Chelsea supporters are taking their frustration out on Sarri. There were loud boos and chants of "you don't know what you're doing" when Ross Barkley once again replaced Mateo Kovacic. Like so many Chelsea managers before him, Sarri will be the man who pays the price, but too many players are letting the club down.

There was not a midfielder in blue to be seen as Herrera broke unchallenged into the penalty area to head in Paul Pogba's cross.

With Sarri needing his team to respond and show they take matters into their own hands, they once again went missing just before the break.

Pogba went untracked as he broke from midfield, played the ball out to Marcus Rashford and continued his run into the area. Luiz was pulled out of position towards Rashford and when the cross went in Pogba had a relatively easy task.

The Chelsea dressing-room, led by Terry, Lampard and Didier Drogba, was one that used to pull itself together after every implosion, but that era is long gone.

Eden Hazard is trying to do too much on his own and is showing his frustration every time his once fruitful partnership with Alonso breaks down.

Under former head coach Antonio Conte, the pair were virtually unstoppable down the left side but Hazard and Alonso barely seem to recognise each other any more.

Hazard almost got Chelsea back into the game with some individual brilliance just after the hour mark and there was a greater urgency about the home side's play in the second half.

But standards are falling and no player better embodies that than Alonso, who Sarri claimed could be one of the best left-backs in the world in September.

His form and confidence has plummeted to such an extent that Alonso is now seen as the club's weak link, the man opponents can bully.

One must wonder how many of the players who started against United genuinely worry about Chelsea's plight. Hazard is clearly hankering after a move to Real Madrid, Luiz's contract runs out at the end of the season and Pedro only has just over a year left on his.

Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain are on loan at Stamford Bridge, which means there were only six starting players whose futures are completely invested in the club.

Even when Sarri looked to the substitutes' bench, his first change was to send on Willian - another player with just over a year left on his current deal.

Of course, those who may leave or go back to their parent clubs have a professional pride but there is little or no consequence for them if Chelsea fail and Sarri is sacked.

They will either wait to hail the impact of the next Chelsea manager or leave and echo the "f*** Sarri-ball" sentiments of the fans when asked what went wrong. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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