Future prospects for Maurizio Sarri remaining at Stamford Bridge are looking bleak, as Danny Murphy pointed out in a recent interview with Sportingbet when he likened the Italian’s position to that of Jose Mourinho before he left Manchester United,
Sarri’s chances of being at Stamford Bridge next season took a huge blow on Sunday as Chelsea conceded the League Cup final to Manchester City by four goals to three on penalties. His position was further undermined by the fiasco that took place before the penalty shoot-out when goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, refused to be substituted.
The intended substitution was due to the fact that Arrizabalanga was thought to be suffering from an injury as the game was drawing to a close. But when Sarri tried to bring on second goalkeeper, Willy Caballero, Arrizabalanga would not walk.
The substitution or non-substitution fiasco caused a long delay at the end of which Chelsea’s manager stomped angrily off down the tunnel. He re-emerged a few minutes later to take his place on the touchline again.
As the penalty shoot-out unfolded, Arrizabalanga made only a single save as Chelsea capitulated 4-3.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Spanish keeper tried to make out that the whole substitution thing was a simple misunderstanding. He thought it was based on a perceived injury received when he went to ground in the latter stages of the game. There was no injury. All he was trying to do he says was to win time for his teammates. He maintains Sarri thought he was injured and that that was why he was asked to leave the field of play.
But whatever happens, it is a manager’s right and indeed duty to change players when the situation demands. Sarri’s decision to bring on Willy Caballero before the penalty shoot-out could well have been based on the fact that the Argentinian has a better record of making penalty saves that does the Spaniard.
Whatever the truth, Sarri has tried to keep a lid on things by subsequently agreeing to the “misunderstanding” explanation. But the subsequent decision by the Chelsea board to fine the Spaniard one week’s wages says it all.
What the whole thing has shown though is that there is unrest among the players, with the dressing room being split. Chelsea has a strong Spanish contingent in its squad, and these guys tend to stick together. They are of course supporting their fellow countryman.
More unrest is being caused by the situation with Eden Hazard and Callum Hudson-Odoi. Hazard, has long been linked with a move to Real Madrid.
Despite the brilliant performances that he has put in this season, it seems to be the fans rather than the management that have been singing his praises. If Hazard is looking to remain at The Bridge, one thing that will play in his favour, however, is the transfer ban Chelsea have just been subjected to. If Chelsea are restricted in terms of drafting in new blood, they will want to retain their best players of which Hazard is undoubtedly one.
But big players want big titles, and the problem for Chelsea is that their only chance left open to them now is the Europa League. Given their erratic form of late, that could be a bridge too far, and Hazard may think his chances of silverware are better with Real. He may not be prepared to carry on waiting.
We might not have long to wait for his decision. The latest news from the lips of Hazard himself is that he has already made up his mind. We wait with baited- breath.
As for Hudson-Odoi, Bayern Munich (who are currently second in the Bundesliga) were desperate to get their hands on the 18-year-old forward in the January transfer window. The youngster has enormous potential, but Sarri has only played him on 15 occasions. It’s simply not enough. He is desperate for more first-class experience and according to rumours, he is yet to sign a new contract.
What it all boils down to is that Maurizio Sarri is a man in crisis and things are rapidly stacking up against him. Unless he can regain the confidence of his team, he may well be the next managerial casualty.