Saturday 23 February 2019

Sarri heads for same fate as Scolari and Villas-Boas

On borrowed time: Maurizio Sarri. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
On borrowed time: Maurizio Sarri. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

James Ducker

Perhaps Maurizio Sarri really cannot motivate these Chelsea players. This was the sort of performance that gets managers sacked.

Patience is hardly one of Roman Abramovich's virtues and the Chelsea owner's fury at this witless, spineless surrender will probably have been amplified by the reopening of old wounds, given that the manager who inflicted the club's biggest defeat for 28 years was the one he coveted above all others.

Whatever 'Sarri-ball' is, it was a world away from the football Pep Guardiola and his mesmerising Manchester City team presided over here.

Sarri said his biggest worry was not his job, which he suggested was "always at risk", but trying to figure out why his team are such a rabble and he certainly seemed to be lost in his own thoughts as he disappeared down the tunnel, having forgotten to shake Guardiola's hand.

Yet the Italian should know that it did not end well for Luiz Felipe Scolari or Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea in very similar circumstances.

It was 10 years ago on Saturday that Scolari was sacked by Abramovich - seven months into his first season - following a goalless draw at home to Hull City, with Chelsea fourth in the Premier League, two places higher than Sarri's side find themselves.

Villas-Boas lasted until the March of his debut season at Stamford Bridge before the axe swung with Chelsea in fifth.

Like Sarri, Scolari and Villas-Boas failed to win over the Chelsea players with their methods. Like Sarri, they were stubborn in their beliefs and paid a heavy price. Is history about to repeat itself for a third time?

City were 4-0 up when their supporters broke into sarcastic chants of "You need Mourinho" in the 37th minute and, watching the way Chelsea downed tools only 11 days after a pasting at Bournemouth in their previous away outing it is hard to escape the feeling that these players have stopped listening to Sarri as they did Jose Mourinho in late 2015.

Publicly admitting he might be ill equipped to motivate them after the 4-0 defeat by Bournemouth was an own goal from Sarri, but they blow like the wind these Chelsea players, clocking off at the first sign of a kink in the road.

If Sarri does go, whoever replaces him may have their work cut out. But the former Napoli coach really is not helping himself.

It was one of those minor mysteries when the fourth official's board kept going up and Jorginho's number was never called. He was by no means the only guilty party - this was a risible collective failure.

But quite how the Italy midfielder remained on the pitch after such an apathetic display that not only reinforced his physical limitations, but also raised questions about his mentality, too, was baffling and pointed once again to the blind spot Sarri seems to have over his compatriot.

Perhaps things might have been different in England by now for Jorginho had he plumped for City over Chelsea and Guardiola over Sarri, and foreign signings do often need a season to get used to the hurly-burly of the Premier League.

Just ask Bernardo Silva, the City playmaker, superb again here and who looks unrecognisable from the slight individual who was routinely bumped off the ball in a difficult debut campaign.

But, bearing in mind Guardiola was seen slumping to his knees, head in hands, when his hat-trick hero Sergio Aguero misplaced a pass with City 4-0 up and coasting, it is fair to say the Catalan would have given one of his players a rocket had he seen them react like Jorginho did after a feeble attempt to tackle Aguero.

How long before Sarri accepts that Jorginho, for now at least, is floundering and central midfield needs reconfiguring?

N'Golo Kante looked as lost as anyone in that more advanced midfield position Sarri keeps insisting he plays.

In just seven weeks, there has been a 12-point swing between Chelsea and a resurgent Manchester United, who now occupy fourth spot. Chelsea cannot afford to miss out on the top four for a second successive season.

Bang

There are similarities between the way Sarri started with a bang at Chelsea and Guardiola at City, before problems set in, but the similarities end there.

Guardiola knew his tactics would take time to register, but there was a discernible plan, he knew he would get the signings he wanted and that he would be able to keep hold of his best players.

Can Sarri say the same at Chelsea? Guardiola also had his squad firmly on side. Moreover, he had the complete faith of his employers. ( © Daily Telegraph, London).

 

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