The most surprising thing to occur at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday evening wasn’t Arsenal’s victory against a fellow team vying for fourth place.
No, instead the most surprising thing that occurred at the Emirates didn’t even happen on the pitch, instead it happened at Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s press conference after his side were swept aside by Arsenal.
Sarri went to town on his players, speaking in Italian in order to properly execute his message, he accused his squad of being “extremely difficult to motivate”.
He insisted that the mentality of his players must improve, while also hinting at personnel changes before the January transfer window closes.
While Sarri’s honesty is refreshing and he didn’t single out any one player in particular, a la Mourinho, his takedown of his own squad has led many to assume he will likely fall by the wayside, like the previous two Chelsea managers.
As player power continues to grow in modern day football, Chelsea are possibly the finest example of a squad that have been successful in getting rid of managers they no longer want to play for.
When Eden Hazard became tired of Mourinho’s style of play and training methods, he basically stopped playing, becoming a pale comparison of the player who a few months previous had guided Chelsea to the league title.
Hazard and the squads lack of interest in playing under Mourinho, led to Chelsea falling into the bottom half of the table and Mourinho being sacked.
Under Antonio Conte, Chelsea undertook the same two season formula, win the title in the first season and then drop off considerably in the second, eventually leading to the managers dismissal.
The deterioration of Conte’s relationship with Diego Costa ultimately came back to bite the Italian in the neck, as more and more players became fed up with his intense training sessions.
Therefore, perhaps Sarri was wise not to single out one particular player, but there are problems in his squad that he will have to address quickly before another revolt occurs.
How do you solve a problem like Eden?
Eden Hazard’s one season on, one season off way of playing has been a hot topic of discussion for a long time now.
When he is on form Hazard is one of the worlds best, however, if he decides he no longer wants to play under a certain manager that seems to be that.
Hazard is Chelsea’s most important player, but his relationship with Maurizio Sarri is already strained, perhaps this is the summer that Hazard will get the move to Real Madrid that he has so desperately wanted in the past.
While it looked like Hazard would be leaving west London last summer he decided to stay on, proclaiming his love for Chelsea and his life in London.
Perhaps though Hazard is going to leave Chelsea this summer and Sarri is well aware of this, therefore being openly frustrated with Hazard’s performances, knowing that it will have no repercussions on his own job.
If Hazard is staying at Chelsea for the long haul, then Sarri should be in fear for his job as the power that Hazard holds over Chelsea is akin to the hold the John Delaney has over the board of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).
Old friends aren’t the answer
As Maurizio Sarri arrived late in pre-season to Stamford Bridge, he only had three and a half weeks to bring in players who fitted into his style of play.
On the day of his appointment Jorginho was signed from Sarri’s former club Napoli, later Kepa would be brought in to replace Courtois in goal and Mateo Kovačić would be signed on loan from Real Madrid.
However, Chelsea’s lacklustre form has been down to their lack of and out and out striker, with Alvaro Morata seemingly on his back to Spain and Oliver Giroud no longer a potent attacking option, Eden Hazard has been deployed as the main striker.
Of course, this is not his ideal position and Hazard plays best with a striker beside him. Enter Gonzalo Higuain, the 31-year-old Argentinian is expected to sign with Chelsea on loan for the rest of the season imminently.
The move for Sarri’s best attacker can only be a stop gap, or a backstop if you will, that is really only going to disguise the fact that Chelsea are in desperate need of a young striker who can lead the line for the next few years.
Higuain is a world class striker, however, the pace of the Premier League may not suit the big man’s style of play and it he very well could turn out to be another great Chelsea striker flop, sadly for Sarri this old friend won’t be the answer to his problems.
Using what’s already at your disposal better
When you look at the Chelsea squad on paper, they should be a lot higher in the table than they are. The likes of Alonso and Azpilicueta are great defenders and with Rudiger slowly maturing at centre half, the Chelsea defence remains one of the best around.
It is in midfield however, where the real problem lies. Since bringing in Jorginho, Sarri has decided to play N’Golo Kante, the world’s best defensive midfielder, further forward. Now Jorginho is good no one is disputing that, but he is a level below Kante as a defensive midfielder.
If Sarri is determined to persist with Jorginho as the holding midfielder, perhaps he should think about putting Kante alongside him or change the formation so that you are getting the most out of a world class player, because as long as Kante continues playing out of position Chelsea will continue to splutter along.
What will become of Sarri?
With some Chelsea fans already clambering for Sarri to go – #sarriout was trending on Saturday evening – the past shows that it does not look like Sarri will be given much time to implement his preferred style at Chelsea.
Whether it’s right or wrong in the end, Chelsea are the greatest example of a get success quick type of club, with the treatment of Callum Hudson-Odoi highlighting this lack of long-term planning.
By not allowing a manager to come in and begin a long-term project that may bring a few barren years to the club, but may in the long-term provide greater success, is not going to happen while Abramovich is still in charge.
While Sarri’s fellow Italian Claudio Ranieri was nicknamed the tinkerman during his time at Chelsea, it will be Sarri’s continued tinkering that will see him cast aside like so many before and likely after him.