The 2-0 loss to Arsenal at the weekend was a big blow for Maurizio Sarri. Chelsea players were simply outshined at the Emirates, losing such an important match at this stage of the season can be a big demotivator. If Chelsea had won at the Emirates, they could be now 7 points clear of Arsenal, momentarily cementing their place for a top-four finish.
This defeat leaves the door open in the race for a top-four finish wide open- something that should worry Chelsea fans out there. With Manchester United and Arsenal breathing down Chelsea’s neck, these are worrying times for Maurizio Sarri’s men.
After the match, the new Chelsea manager was seen throwing tantrums at his own players in a press conference, something that could turn against him in the dressing room. These Chelsea players are fond of turning against their own managers, and Sarri is not in any way an exception. In fact, if the Italian continues attacking his own players the same way he did on Saturday, then this could turn out ugly. This is a huge gamble.
On a positive note, Chelsea dominated proceedings against Arsenal. In fact, the stats did favor them, but the end result wasn’t in their favour. On a lighter note, Sarri-ball is starting to gather pace. Unfortunately, results are not going to plan. Hopefully with time, maybe this system will start to take its full effect.
On the other hand, sixth placed Manchester United has been in good form lately under new interim manager Solskjaer. Chelsea’s hopes for a top-four finish look slim, if you consider the way Manchester United’s form at the moment. A loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford later in the season, may see Chelsea drop down to sixth place in the Premier League standings – something Maurizio Sarri is hoping to avoid at all costs.
Now let us take a look at some of the problems behind Chelsea’s struggles this season.
1. The Jorginho effect
If there’s a player that Maurizio Sarri should be starting a war with, it is Jorginho. The midfielder has been the weak link in this Chelsea side – he is arguably to balme for some of Chelsea’s struggles this season. Oddly, the manager keeps retaining him in the starting eleven, and this is causing more harm than good to Chelsea. Jorginho can hardly tackle, score or even provide an assist. Surprisingly, the manager keeps playing Jorginho at the deeper role instead of Kante.
His lack of aggressiveness in the middle of the park could be a part of the reason Chelsea have suffered defeats at the hands of Leicester, Wolves, Arsenal and Tottenham (twice). N’golo Kante, the best defensive midfielder in the world by far has been deployed in a more advanced role by his manager; something that has raised eyebrows.
Playing the best defensive midfielder in the world in the wrong position has left Chelsea’s backline exposed on a couple of occasions; as we have previously seen when Jorginho gets overwhelmed by opponents by putting pressure on him. Chelsea have become vulnerable at the back, at times, with Jorginho playing the deeper role, but the manageris sticking to his guns.
Jorginho is a very good player- there is no doubt about that. But having someone like Kante playing alongside him in a 4-2-3-1 would be a better option. Let Kante do what he does best- win possession, put in tackles and give the defense some bit of protection. However, that goes against what Sarri deploys in his stule of football.
2. Eden hazard future
Eden Hazard has been linked with a move away from the club for some time now and it could be affecting his performances. With less than a year remaining on his contract, the Belgium international has refused to commit his future at Chelsea by delaying talks over a new improved deal.
We have seen time and time again Hazard be thegamechanger for this Chelsea team in matches. The 28-year-old has been the shining light for Chelsea over years. This season alone, the Belgium international has managed to register 10 assists and scored 12 goals.
Nevertheless, in the last two games, his form has somewhat dipped. Hazard has previously shown interest in signing for Real Madrid, with many touting him as being the perfect replacement for the departed Cristiano Ronaldo. Such uncertainty surrounding his future seems to be affecting his performances of late.
3. Lack of a proper striker
When controversial striker Diego Costa departed Stamford Bridge to Atletico Madrid after a feud with then manager Antonio Conte, he left Chelsea struggling for goals upfront. Not even his replacement Alvaro Morata has been able to replicate the form that made Diego Costa one of the best strikers to ever pull a Chelsea shirt.
Finding the right replacement for Costa has seen Chelsea turn to panic buys in Olivier Giroud and Morata, after faliling to get their number 1 target in Romelu Lukaku; with the two struggling to score on a consistent basis for Chelsea. Morata has particularly had a torrid time at Chelsea throwing his future in serious doubt.
Other players have struggled for goals this season, forcing Sarri to deploy Eden Hazard as a false nine. With the impending arrival of Gonzalo Higuain to Chelsea this winter; this looks sort of a quick fix for them at the moment. At 31, Higuain is not getting any younger. Therefore, Chelsea should look for a younger player available in the market- someone like Icardi would be an ideal signing.
When Mauricio Sarri came to Chelsea this season, there were a lot of positives surrounding his appointment. His reputation at Napoli was perhaps the reason behind his appointment as Chelsea manager. In the first few games, Premier league fans were been treated to a new brand of football- Sarri-ball- that saw Chelsea register back-to-back wins.
Everything was moving nicely for Sarri despite seeing some scary moments in games against big opposition like Arsenal at the beginning of the season. Sarri-ball was all new to Chelsea players, and we even saw some first-team players such as Cahill and Victor Moses drop to the bench.
Perhaps nobody at Chelsea saw the cons of playing a rigid 4-3-3 system of play because of the ‘excitement’ it brought initially at Stamford Bridge. Even when Chelsea played Arsenal at the beginning of the season, the fans were too defiant to admit to the flaws of ‘Sarri-ball’. Arsenal did miss a couple of chances in that match and could have won easily by a fair margin.
Now everybody is starting to see the bigger picture- Sarri-ball has flaws. Nonetheless, Maurizio Sarri has refused to give up on this new formation. His stubbornness and uncanny behavior of not wanting to try new formation at Chelsea are simply digging his own grave.
There is no time left for playing ‘mind-games’ at Stamford Bridge, especially for new managers. At Chelsea, its either you hit the ground running or face the sack- as simple as that. Time is not in any way on Maurizio Sarri’s side, and he knows it.
This same dressing room was the one that made Conte lose his job as Chelsea. We have been in this situation before. Sarri is, arguably, playing a very dangerous game here. If Chelsea lose their next two games, then we might see, again, Abramovich pull the trigger for the second year running.