Maurizio Sarri ended a much-debated campaign at Chelsea after Juventus confirmed his appointment. Struggling to make the squad adapt to his style of play, he never really managed to settle down at Stamford Bridge. But he did manage to win the Europa League and finish third in a league where the top 2 played on a different level. The final result looked decent, but the way to it hasn’t assured everybody of its repeated, augmented success. And that, probably, led to his departure.
Chants of ‘F*** Sarri ball’ were reverberating around the stands of Stamford Bridge and had it not been for his departure, they were almost set for a return in future.
When Sarri took reigns at Stamford Bridge, the players had to adapt to a style of play that varied largely from their previous boss. Probably ‘boss’ is just the right word for their previous coach, Antonio Conte, given the way he stamped his authority on his new team almost immediately after his arrival.
He eased his team into a system he wanted and managed to get the best out of them. It was a system that saw a record-breaking Premier League win. A system that many resorted to since then. The very thing that his successor couldn’t achieve. In a complete season with Chelsea, Sarri could never completely implement his brand of football at Stamford Bridge. The formation he did, but the flair he couldn’t.
The best of play that he managed to achieve at Chelsea was nowhere near the flair and the brand of football played by Napoli during his time that had earned a nomenclature of Sarri-ball. Yes, they were playing a 4-3-3, but not as Sarri would have planned. Yes, they had a good chunk of possession (on most occasions), but not much of that was creating chances in the final third.
After a decent start, Sarri suffered a torrid middle phase when Chelsea suffered humiliations at Bournemouth and Manchester City in the league and lost to Manchester United at home in FA Cup. Not just the losses, but the manner wasn’t taken kindly. Chants of ‘F*** Sarri ball’ were reverberating around the stands of Stamford Bridge and had it not been for his departure, they were almost set for a return in future.
Wasn't winning Europa League enough?
The speculation of Sarri’s sacking had died down a little when he manged to accumulate a few wins towards the end. Chelsea, with a little help from other top 4 contenders, managed to finish third in the league. Sarri had also won the Europa League, but the decision was probably made by then. When Jorginho, brought in as a marquee playmaker, failed to record a natural number in his assists column.
When N’Golo Kante, one of the world’s finest defensive midfielders, was deployed at the right of a midfield three. When Callum Hudson Odoi and Ruben Loftus Cheek, the brightest of the academy prospects, had to wait for such a long time. Probably then, the decision was made. And not when Maurizio Sarri was kissing the Europa League winners medal, with an extreme joy of his first ever major trophy and when the players could be seen celebrating behind a tall, shiny Europa League trophy through raindrops created by the fizzing champagne.
The final result looked decent, but the way to it hasn’t assured everybody of its repeated, augmented success.
The transfer ban didn’t help Sarri’s case either. The current team didn’t have enough for the Italian’s style of play, and the transfer ban only kept people wondering if Sarri had a long-term future at Chelsea. Perhaps, Sarri himself did not see his long-term future in the western part of London where he, like Rafa Benitez, found out that he could win the Europa League and still be openly ridiculed by a majority of fans.
After a Europa League triumph, the Juventus offer might have been the next best thing that happened to Sarri in London. It made sure Sarri didn’t have to force his way out of Chelsea, neither did Chelsea have to force him out. It gave both Chelsea and Sarri what they wanted. Sarri was sacked, but smoothly and politely. The Old Lady’s search for a new manager prevented London’s blues.Published 22 Jun 2019, 12:29 IST