Chelsea Football Club were humiliated last night in a match at Dean Court (better known as the Vitality Stadium for the corporate bearing youngsters of today) their biggest defeat in years losing 4-0 to AFC Bournemouth. Coach Maurizio Sarri after the match apparently had his players in the changing room for over 40 minutes and said after in the press conference (probably lost in translation) that “perhaps he could not motivate them”.
The papers now talk of unrest amidst a squad that is prone to getting their managers the sack. Chelsea have form, after winning the league under Jose Mourinho in 2015 months later he would leave by ‘mutual consent’ after an earlier spat with the then Physio Eva Carneiro believed by many to have been a cause of him ‘losing the dressing room’.
Then followed Antonio Conte, a serial winner with Juventus in his first season with Chelsea won the league title and although didn’t quite match those achievements the following campaign a year later bowed out by winning the FA Cup even amidst dressing room unrest. The players & board seemingly not always liking Conte’s way.
So in the summer of 2018 Chelsea sack Conte and replace him with a man that has never won anything. Maurizio Sarri might be a likeable educated Italian with an attacking philosophy built on his relative successes most recently with Napoli, but he is still a man with an opinion, he still is a man that wants football played his way (the way of Sarriball) and Chelsea still seem to have a problem with adopting this?
Perhaps I’m being harsh on Chelsea? Mourinho was ‘sacked’ because his championship winning side found themselves mid table six months after his Premier League success. Conte was ‘sacked’ because despite winning the league in 2016/17 they missed out on Champions League Qualification the following campaign. But where does that leave Sarri if he produces less than previous bosses in their first seasons? Where does it leave him if they fail to qualify again for the Champions League?
Chelsea Football Club have been run under a philosophy of style above substance ever since Roman Abramovich took over the reigns at the famous old club in 2003. Not that Abramovich hasn’t turned Chelsea from top flight pretenders to one of the worlds biggest and best football teams, but the way he’s done it can sometimes be questioned, sacking Champions League winners and serial title winners along the way just because they don’t fit the narrative of being the right man at the right time… But Sarri was supposed to be that man. The new way of football philosophy, attacking, high pressing, Sarriball is a system that allows all players to attack and that is what Chelsea wanted after two relatively negative (all be it successful) coaches in Mourinho & Conte.
But last nights defeat will leave a bitter taste in the mouth. A week ago Chelsea made it to the League Cup Final. They are still involved in the FA Cup, the Europa League and could easily still make the top four in the Premier League come May, so what is the problem?
If Chelsea oust Sarri where does it leave them? Wanting the next best Italian Coach that hasn’t yet managed them? Wanting immediate success by throwing a blank chequebook around perhaps? Those days might be long gone for Abramovich who these days keeps his purse closer to his chest. Chelsea are no longer a club that can ‘simply’ throw around the cash and expect immediate results, the Premier League and football in England in general has become too difficult for that philosophy with too many quality opponents all prepared to do the same thing and more in order to win. Chelsea might now need to do something different and think about the bigger picture with more a long term objective, and having faith in a Manager and system that suits the club in time could be a good start to do that.
Whilst a 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth is not what anyone at Stamford Bridge wants, bigger, better and more famous football clubs have bounced back from much worse than this in the past. Now Chelsea, their players and their staff must to work together as a football ‘club’ collectively, without pointing the blame at one man all of the time when things go wrong.