Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is a man under pressure, and in the first-half against Malmo on Thursday night, the Italian who’s normally calm on the sideline cut a frustrated figure as he knew his job is on the line.
After a fine start to his reign as Chelsea manager, a series of defeats this year have put Sarri’s future as Chelsea boss under threat. It all started with the frustrating 2-0 defeat against Arsenal in January – a game Chelsea barely had a shot on target until after the 85th minute of the clash. The following away game saw Sarri’s side lose 4-0 to mid-table Bournemouth, and then the Blues were comprehensively beaten 6-0 by Manchester City. That game seemed to mark the end of an era, but Chelsea’s woes weren’t done as Manchester United compounded Sarri’s wounds with a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge that saw the Blues knocked out of the tie.
The day after the defeat to United, senior Chelsea board members were reported to have held a meeting to decide the fate of the Italian, and reports from the meeting claim that Sarri was given an ultimatum not to lose any of his three next games – Malmo, Manchester City and Tottenham.
Sarri has passed the first test as the Blues defeated Malmo 3-0, but that was the easy task. Up next is a League Cup final against the team that humiliated Chelsea just a fortnight ago. Can Sarri save his job by winning the League Cup and at least restore Chelsea’s pride against City?
For Sarri to get the win against City, he must need the cooperation of his players, and these four players below can help Sarri save his job.
1. Kepa Arrizabalaga
Signed for £71.6m from Athletic Bilbao, the young goalkeeper was signed to replace the more experienced Thibaut Courtois who left Chelsea for Real Madrid. Kepa was signed for the future with age still very much on his side, and he’s yet to reach the peak of his career as a goalkeeper.
The 24-year-old has showed flashes of how good he can be. He’s the modern day manager’s delight as he’s good on the ball, composed under pressure and can pick a pass. However, the Spaniard must improve in goal, which is the number one requirement for every good goalkeeper. A good goalkeeper is the hallmark of a successful team, and we’ve seen the likes of Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois do extremely well over the past decade plus for the club.
Kepa must improve in goal to help this team. While he hasn’t been awful, he hasn’t been excellent either. We’ve seen David De Gea save United on numerous occasions, and most recently he had to make eleven saves to help Manchester United preserve a 1-0 victory against a rampaging Tottenham side.
In the FA Cup fifth round defeat to Manchester United, you’d argue that Kepa should have done better to save Paul Pogba’s header for the second goal. A good save could have kept Chelsea in that game and would have made the job easier for the team.
If Sarri must save his job, Kepa must improve as well, especially in the game against City where he took six the last time.
2. Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard is the star of this Chelsea team, and he is responsible for most of the goals the team has scored this season, but there’s a feeling he can still do much more.
Chelsea have scored 45 league goals this season, and Hazard has scored 12 of those goals and assisted 10, meaning he has been involved in 22 out of 45 goals. That’s fantastic and also shows how much Chelsea have turned into a one-man team.
However, one area Hazard is lacking is in the defensive part of the game. Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri needs his team to press high and hard, and this means that our front three is responsible for our first phase of pressing, an area Hazard hasn’t really shown interest.
If Chelsea must beat Manchester City and save Sarri his job, Eden Hazard must work hard with the rest of the team. This City side are too strong to have one player not involved in pressing.
3. Marcos Alonso
Fresh off signing a new contract at the start of the season, the Spaniard is now having a terrible season in Chelsea.
Alonso’s form in his first two seasons in England was awesome, and he was in the Premier League team of the Year due to how effective he was in the left wing-back position.
Alonso bagged some important goals for Chelsea in his first and second season at the club and was a huge part of the team’s play. And he started in same manner under Maurizio Sarri this season.
But since the 3-1 defeat to Tottenham in November, Alonso hasn’t been himself. He has been exposed time after time defensively and his attacking contributions have also suffered. The Spaniard has just one goal to his name this season, and Sarri will be hoping he goes back to his best form in Chelsea’s coming games.
On their day, Pedro and Willian are two great players, and they’ve both been of good service to the club. Their passion and dedication to the club is undoubted, but we can’t say the same about their performance in recent games.
It’s either one of them alongside Eden Hazard for most games, but it just seems like they leave all the creativity to Hazard alone.
Both are in their 30’s, and now seem to be burning out already. Pedro’s work rate hasn’t been up to his best in recent games, and his goal and assist contribution has been poor lately. He has scored only seven goals this season and the bulk of his goals came when Chelsea were in form, meaning he hasn’t been helping the team lately.
For Willian, it seems like he’s already getting past his best years at the club. When coming off the bench for Pedro, he hasn’t impacted or changed the game and when he starts games, he hasn’t been at his best.
The Brazilian has scored only three times in the Premier League this season – an awful return for a player of his quality.
The duo have been swapped the third most times in the league this season, but neither change the game after coming on. Sarri will definitely need them to up their game.
Jorginho seems to be Sarri’s most important player because of the way the Italian boss wants to play. Jorginho is responsible for taking the ball from the defenders and passing it forward. He starts the team’s attack and he dictates play.
Jorginho’s start to life in England was incredible and he seemed to be the best playmaker in the league, but since the game against Tottenham Hotspur which he flopped badly, the 27-year-old has been exposed time after time.
His lack of pace and inability to cover up spaces and make tackles in midfield has left Chelsea’s middle open especially in big games. He’s yet to get an assist for Chelsea and has been found out by most Premier League teams.
Maurizio Sarri brought Jorginho alongside him from Napoli, and if Sarri must keep his job, Jorginho must do more in midfield.
6. Callum Hudson-Odoi
The youngster has been restricted to a handful of games where he makes cameo appearances, much to his frustration and the frustration of the fans.
Time after time, he has shown that he has what it takes to be in the first team and play against the big boys, but Sarri doesn’t think he’s ready yet.
Hudson-Odoi is that tool that can do the job, while Sarri keeps looking elsewhere for solutions. The 18-year-old yet again showed against Malmo that he has what it takes to be a regular for Chelsea. He was one of Chelsea’s best players and capped his performance with a goal to prove a point to the manager.
CHO’s style of play is different from Pedro and Willian; he offers something unique as he’s a more direct player who also loves to put the ball in the box, something Gonzalo Higuain would love. He has the pace to take on a man and can shoot when needed.
If Sarri must save his job, it’s time for the Italian to look at Chelsea’s brightest academy product and give him a chance.
Sarri’s job is at stake, and these six players can play a role in keeping the Italian who’s bent on succeeding with Sarri-ball.