Maurizio Sarri’s spell as Chelsea boss is officially over after just 11 months in charge as it was confirmed on Sunday he is returning to Serie A with Juventus.
The former Napoli boss lifted the Europa League and finished third in the Premier League during his only season at Stamford Bridge, while also only missing out on EFL Cup glory in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester City in the final.
But Sarri never truly won over Chelsea supporters with his style of play and a new man – likely to be Blues legend Frank Lampard – will now take over ahead of the new season.
Lampard has just one year of managerial experience under his belt, having guided Derby County to the Championship play-off final in 2018-19, yet he is considered the frontrunner to succeed Sarri.
He was the marquee signing lured to Chelsea last year following Sarri’s arrival and was supposed to be the player that personified his coach’s style of play. That in many ways turned out to be true, but not in a good way. Pass-master Jorginho was often criticized by his own supporters last season, not helped by Sarri’s decision to play him in the position favoured by fan favourite N’Golo Kante, and it remains to be seen whether he has a future at Stamford Bridge under the new management.
Zola, whose return to Chelsea in a coaching capacity seemed like a shrewd piece of business at the time, is expected to make way during the close-season as part of a backroom reshuffle. Each member of Sarri’s coaching staff reportedly only had one-year deals and that was no different for Zola, who it is said will not form part of Lampard’s team.
Chelsea chiefs will argue they backed Sarri in January by bringing in Higuain from Juventus in a complicated and protracted deal. The Blues have the option of signing the striker on a permanent basis, but that now seems even more unlikely to happen following Sarri’s departure. Another reunion with the man who got so much out of him at Napoli awaits, but Juventus have already loaned him out twice and his chances will surely be limited in a side that already contains Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Moise Kean and Mario Mandzukic.
The Frenchman did not hide his frustration at a lack of first-team chances last season, made all the more disappointing by the fact that he regularly took his opportunities when they arrived in the Europa League. Chelsea triggered a one-year extension in Giroud’s contract last month and he may now have a bigger part to play, especially given that Higuain – used regularly through the middle by Sarri – is seemingly heading back to his parent club.
Easily the most frustrating of Sarri’s tactical tweaks, the experiment to use Kante out of position went on for far too long – eight months too long, in the view of many Shed End regulars. The Word Cup winner, widely considered to be the best defensive midfielder in the world in the two seasons leading up to Sarri’s arrival, was used on the right of a three-man midfield. Moving Kante back into his favoured holding role should be the first tweak made by the next manager..
Sarri was reluctant to use Callum Hudson-Odoi for large parts of last season, despite coming in for criticism from the stands, and there was also limited playing time for many of the other talented youngsters in Chelsea’s bloated squad. With Sarri no longer around, though, and a two-window transfer ban hanging over the club, the younger players may play a more significant role from next season – not least the likes of Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori following their successful time on loan in the Championship with Lampard’s Derby.