Those who had followed Maurizio Sarri’s career in Italy knew that it wouldn’t be an easy transition when he opted to make the move to the Premier League with Chelsea last summer. Social media had been awash with videos of the sparkling football he had regularly displayed in Naples, the Blues supporters understandably ecstatic to see the results of the man who was about to take charge of their team.
In the past, they had experienced the likes of Gianluca Vialli, Antonio Conte and Roberto Di Matteo – all charismatic Italians – at Stamford Bridge, but Sarri is not made from the same mould. Grumpy, cantankerous and chain-smoking Sarri point-blank refuses to conform to anyone’s stereotype. As Chelsea fans now know, his methods take time, and he always gets his own way.
Those who expected an immediate display of “Sarriball” at it’s best were left sorely disappointed, and as early good results faded and some disgruntled supporters were even captured on camera chanting “F**k Sarriball”. The mainstream media quickly jumped on the bandwagon too, eager to expose the new boss as a fraud before giving him any chance of proving himself.
The role of key man Jorginho as a regista was spectacularly misunderstood, as indicated in this previous post, as difficulties mounted up for the Italian. Yet even in the face of heavy criticism, Sarri’s stubborn nature helped him as he continued with his work regardless. There was even much attention on the Coach as he threw his hat down in frustration on the eve of the Europa League final, yet it’s very clear to see that much of his outlandish behaviour is born of sheer exasperation.
That Chelsea have finished in third place and won the Europa League under Sarri has demonstrated that much of the condemnation of him was unfair. Here is a boss whose system takes time to perfect, and the board must have known that when he was put in place last summer. While the football is not yet Napoli-esque, the results are certainly there, but the Premier League may still lose this Coach before he has really even begun.
“We had a good season, because we earned out place in the Champions League via the Premier League, which was not an easy task considering the high overall level,” the former Napoli man told Sky Italia after beating Arsenal 4-1 in Baku on Wednesday.
“We reached the League Cup Final after knocking out Liverpool and Tottenham, only lost on penalties to Manchester City. In the Europa League we won 12 and drew three, we scored more than anyone else.
“I think after tonight our season goes from good to extraordinary. It was not easy to arrive and settle quickly in such a difficult league. I had some problems, but from February onwards I saw something change in the rapport with the team. Maybe I changed too, but I am starting to feel like this team is mine.”
1990-2005: Serie D
2005-2010: Bouncing around Serie B
2010-2012: Serie C
2018-: Chelsea, winning his FIRST EVER trophy as a manager.
Almost draws you to tears when you see him look at his medal
For those who wanted to see “Sarriball” at its very peak, now is the time to stick with the Coach in order to hand him a full pre-season to work on his style with the players at his disposal. It seems like Chelsea would be mad to let him walk away now, but could it be too late?
“From tomorrow, as with all clubs, we’ll sit down and see what the club wants me to improve and what I want the club to improve,” Sarri continued in the same interview. “There are still two years on the contract, so as with every club, we have to sit down and evaluate everything.”
Reports in Italy suggest that Juventus are keen on the tactician to replace the departed Max Allegri and – while those who know the Italian league will understand that he might not be the best fit in Turin – it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Sarri will have plenty of options on the table this summer.
For now though, it is hoped that Sarri’s toughest critics have realised that they need to eat a rather large slice of humble pie following his exploits during an extremely tough first campaign in the English top flight.