Chelsea lost to Arsenal at the Emirates in what was a crucial game for both sides. A win saw Arsenal cut the deficit to three points while also staying above United on goal difference. A loss would have seen Chelsea go 9 points clear of Arsenal, but goals from Lacazette in the 14th minute and Koscielny in the 39th minute meant that Arsenal won the three points. So, Chelsea lose their 4th game of the season but are still 4th and 3 points ahead of Arsenal, and United. As soon as the final whistle blew the media has since had a field day, from Rio and pundits slating Jorginho, to people debating whether Chelsea are in a crisis after Sarri’s post match comments. Now Chelsea were bad and the game was poor but it was not something that Chelsea fans should be surprised to have seen especially after recent games. So rather than discussing the game which for all intents and purposes was poor and consisted of the same problems we have seen from Chelsea this season, I will talk about all the uproar from it.
Firstly the pundits favourite topic of conversation Jorginho, and Kante. Now if you do not follow Chelsea, or you don’t know Sarri’s system then sure the argument that Kante should play in Jorginho’s role because he is a better CDM makes total sense. The pundits argument is that Jorginho has 2000+ passes but no assists and Kante is better in the defensive phase. On the face of it yes, that makes sense but Jorginho is a regista in the mould of Pirlo, Busquets etc who don’t make assists or defensive contributions but are crucial to how the teams function because all the play goes through them. The fact that if teams stop Jorginho they stop Chelsea is true at the moment because Chelsea lack quality in the forward and full back areas and when Jorginho does make a pass if it goes to anyone but Hazard there are chances it won’t hit the back of the net.
Kante’s best position is where Jorginho plays but Kante is not a regista and playing Kante there would mean telling Sarri to change his philosophy, something he has been employed to coach into this squad. As far as Kante is concerned he has made no issues of playing further forward he actually has improved in his new position and added an attacking threat to his game but pundits won’t comment on that. Now I have been one to say that Sarri should try a 4-2-3-1 formation but Sarri has stated that he firsts want to perfect this system before trying another one and that makes sense. The 4-3-3 is something he is brilliant at, and having one fully cooked formation as opposed to two half baked ones is the more sensible thing. Jorginho does need back up especially since Fabregas has left and Paredes was inbound but the whole situation with CHO has made Chelsea second guess themselves in bringing in new signings at the detriment of players like Mount. My opinion in this matter is I am with Sarri, fans were waxing lyrical about Jorginho initially but it is not a coincidence that our goal scoring has been impacted by the weakened impact of Jorginho. Jorginho needs a back up for this season whether that is Paredes or Ampadu only time will tell what Sari does.
The second thing and perhaps the most scandalous according to the media has been Sarri’s comments post match. Sarri chose to speak in Italian as he wanted his message to be clear and not get lost in translation. Sarri’s press conference criticised the players mentality, and their motivation in games. “It would appear that this group of players is extremely hard to motivate” that was the main comment. Now since this press conference pundits have come to the conclusion that Sarri will be sacked, and that the players are frustrated and after 6 months in charge he is in a do or die situation. I am with Sarri but before defending him it has to be said that he is not completely faultless. Does Sarri have the players to rotate? Yes. Why he continues to play Willian, and Alonso on the left? I don’t know. Sarri is stubborn but in the situations where he has options to change it up he should. Sarri did hint that he might switch things around in the coming weeks and if that means Emerson, and CHO will be given more chances then I am all for it. Now to come to Sarri’s defence, Sarri has stated something Mourinho, and Conte both alluded to in their tenures. Sarri unlike Mourinho, and Conte has not been blunt he has called a spade a spade and nothing he has said about the player’s mentality or motivation is wrong.
Ever since Terry left there has been a void of leadership at the club, from the remaining players David Luiz, and Ampadu are probably your best bets at leadership qualities. Azpi, and Pedro are close, Kepa, Rudiger, Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, CHO would all fall in the bracket of being motivated but not leaders. Hazard more often than not single handedly carries the team but when others are poor Hazard is usually poor with them. Gone are the days of the Champions League final when we quite literally won on mentality and motivation and true grit. These days you will still find that occasional performance by Chelsea which will show you that they are ready to fight it out but over the last four seasons when the going gets tough we let it get tougher. It will take time for Sarri to reestablish a winning mentality into this team and he has stated that the squad has to be a mix of academy players and foreign players because without the academy players you lose the soul of the club.
The fact that Sarri’s system is completely different to Mourinho’s and Conte’s can not be ignored, if you are trying to instil a philosophy as opposed to a tactical change it will take time. For this I will take example of three teams Liverpool, City, and Spurs. Klopp, Pep, and Poch have both instilled philosophy’s at their respective clubs over a couple of seasons using different methods.
Klopp joined Liverpool in October 2015 after Rodgers got the sack, he finished 8th that season but it would be fair to take his first full season in charge of Liverpool into account in which he finished 4th. After Klopp had a winter and summer transfer window in which he let go of several fringe and deadwood players his 16/17 squad consisted of –
- Goalkeepers – Karius, Mignolet, Manninger
- Defenders – Clyne, Lovren, Milner, Gomez, Klavan, Moreno, Matip, Randall, Alexander-Arnold
- Midfielders – Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Henderson, Grujic, Lallana, Lucas, Can, Stewart, Ejaria, Ojo, Wilson.
- Forwards – Firmino, Sturridge, Mane, Origi, Ings, Woodburn
In Klopp’s two full season’s in charge of Liverpool he has finished 4th both times. In 15/16 Liverpool were runners up in the League Cup, and the Europa League. In 16/17 Liverpool reached the semi’s of the League Cup, and in 17/18 they finished runners up in the Champions League. Liverpool have gradually improved their squad addressing each area in separate windows and using a combination of youth and signings. We cut to Klopp’s squad this season –
- Goalkeepers – Alisson, Mignolet, Kelleher
- Defenders – Van Dijk, Lovren, Gomez, Moreno, Robertson, Matip, Phillips, Hoever, Randall, Alexander-Arnold
- Midfielders – Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita, Henderson, Lallana, Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Jones, Markovic, Camacho, Chirivella.
- Forwards – Firmino, Mane, Salah, Sturridge, Brewster, Origi
With the exception of Alexander-Arnold the players at the end of each section barely play or are heard of but the changes are evident. Liverpool are currently first in the league, and still in the Champions League. They have decent squad depth to challenge for the two competitions.
Man City –
Pep joined City in the 16/17 season after Pellegrini had been sacked at the end of the previous season. Pep had been brought in to instil his tiki-taka philosophy and the squad he inherited in that season is –
- Goalkeepers – Bravo, Caballero, Gunn
- Defenders – Sagna, Kompany, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Clichy, Stones, Otamendi, Maffeo, Adarabaiyo, Angelino
- Midfielders – Fernando, Gundogan, Navas, De Bruyne, Delph, Sane, Silva, Fernandinho, Toure, Garcia
- Forwards – Sterling, Nolito, Aguero, Jesus, Iheanacho
Pep finished 3rd in his first season, and reached the semi’s of the FA Cup. In his next season Pep won the title, along with the league cup. At the moment Pep is 2nd in the table and still in all competitions. While Liverpool’s strategy was gradual City threw money at the problem and backed Pep to build his squad, to the point where City’s squad for this season is filled with expensive signings in all areas of the pitch. Pep’s 18/19 squad is –
- Goalkeepers – Ederson, Bravo, Muric, Grimshaw
- Defenders – Walker, Danilo, Kompany, Stones, Laporte, Mangala, Mendy, Otamendi, Sandler
- Midfielders – Gundogan, De Bruyne, Delph, Sane, Silva, B.Silva, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Zinchenko, Foden
- Forwards – Sterling, Aguero, Jesus, Bolton
4 out 4 in in defence, 2 out 2 in in midfield and 2 out in attack. City have been ruthless in the market and that has paid dividends since.
Tottenham and Poch are interesting because they have not won anything much like Liverpool but there football is appealing to the eye and the pundits love to make them title contenders each and every season. They suffer a greater lack in mentality, but still we can take them into consideration. Poch joined Spurs in the 14/15 season after they had finished 6th the previous year. Poch had been at Southampton where his willingness to play homegrown talent and attractive football had won him praise. Poch’s squad in the 14/15 season was –
- Goalkeepers – Lloris, Vorm, Friedel
- Defenders – Kaboul, Vertonghen, Chiriches, Dier, Fazio, Walker, Rose, Davies, Yedlin
- Midfielders – Stambouli, Capoue, Paulinho, Dembele, Mason, Bentaleb, Eriksen, Ceballos
- Forwards – Lamela, Townsend, Chadli, Soldado, Adebayor, Kane
Poch inherited a squad post the Gareth Bale shopping spree where Spurs lost their shit and spent all the money they got on the transfer. The seasons since Levy has taken a completely different approach in which they have bought less and made really thought out purchases sometimes losing out on their targets. 14/15 Spurs finished 5th in the league, and were runners up in the league cup. 15/16 Spurs finished 3rd in a season where Leicester won the title. 16/17 Spurs finished 2nd in the league, and reached the semis of the FA Cup. 17/18 Spurs finished 3rd and once again reached the semi’s of the FA Cup. Currently Spurs are 3rd in the league and still in all competitions. No doubt Poch has improved Spurs and while it can be argued they missed their best chances to win the league in the 15/16 and 16/17 seasons they still have been in the top four 3 years running. No trophies though and unlike Klopp, Poch has never won anything. Spurs 18/19 squad consists of –
- Goalkeepers – Lloris, Vorm, Gazzaniga
- Defenders – Trippier, Rose, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Walker-Peters, Foyth, Aurier, Davies, Carter-Vickers
- Midfielders – Winks, Lamela, Wanyama, N’Koudou, Dier, Sissoko, Alli, Eriksen, Onomah, Moura, Amos, Skipp
- Forwards – Son, Kane, Llorente, Janssen
Significant changes at Spurs over the years while Kane scoring 20+ goals each season has really helped them.
Now what do all these teams have in common? Their own philosophy of attacking football, great goalkeepers, pacy full backs, solid defenders, good to great midfields, and 2 or more forwards that will provide you 10 or more goals a season. Not to mention they all have players that haven’t seen the light of day or have been marginalised for example Mignolet, Moreno, Lallana, Markovic, Origi, Mangala, Janssen, and Lamela. Though the argument will be placed that the players ahead of them are so great that it is justified they sit on the bench. City unlike Spurs and Liverpool barely use youth or academy players and Foden is in the fringes but these guys are not Chelsea and so its ok.
Finally while this is Sarri’s first season it would be interesting to see what came before and so we can take 14/15 as a year to start from, Mourinho’s second year in his second stint at Chelsea in which we finished 1st and won the League cup. Mourinho’s squad was –
- Goalkeepers – Courtois, Cech, Blackman
- Defenders – Ivanovic, Luis, Zouma, Ake, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Christensen
- Midfielders – Fabregas, Ramires, Oscar, Hazard, Mikel, Matic, Willian, Cuadrado, Loftus-Cheek, Brown
- Forwards – Costa, Drogba, Remy
A great squad with a mix of leaders and quality around the pitch not the best team but one that knew how to get the job done. 15/16 was the infamous 10th placed finish, Mourino was sacked in December. 16/17 Conte is brought in with the same rhetoric of implementing a philosophy and after switching to 3-4-3 and using wing backs we win the league once again and finish runners up in the FA Cup. 17/18 things are going great until January, Costa fell out with Conte but it didnt seem to matter because Morata had hit the ground running. Cut to June and we finish 5th, and Conte wins the FA Cup in his final game in charge of the club. Conte is then sacked 2 weeks before the start of the season because he challenged the board and the players had become tired of him similar to Mourinho. Sarri is then appointed with 2 weeks till the start of the season and after a hurried transfer window his squad for this season is –
- Goalkeepers – Kepa, Caballero, Green, Bulka
- Defenders – Rudiger, Alonso, Zappacosta, Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Emerson, Ampadu
- Midfielders – Jorginho, Drinkwater, Kante, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic
- Forwards – Hazard, Pedro, Moses, Willian, Giroud, Morata, Hudson-Odoi, Piazon
Kepa and Jorginho have been Sarri signings and Kovacic was brought in on loan from Real Madrid. How many of these players don’t feature either due to the fact Sarri does not want them or they don’t fit or are deadwood, Cahill, Drinkwater, Moses, Piazon. How many have no real future but are rotated for the sake of it, Zappacosta, Emerson. Christensen, Ampadu, RLC, and Hudson-Odoi are all players that should stay and will be key in the coming months and years. Do we have fast full backs that are good at crossing? No. Azpi has improved but he is someone who could easily shift to a centre back place in the future. Alonso is slow, can’t cross, and just not bothered. He is great at finishing, and free kicks and has been unlucky to hit the post 6 or 7 times this season but I would rather have a Robertson, or Mendy rather than Alonso. Rudiger and Luiz are great at times but shaky at others although Luiz is a massive threat with his long passes and should stay in the squad over the years similar to a Terryesque role. The midfield is fairly decent and if we sort out are full back and forward problems then our midfield is the least of our worries, RLC’s injury has really impacted us. Finally do we have 2 or more players that contribute 10 or more goals a season? NO!. We have Hazard who is doing great this season but needs to decide whether he wants to stay or move on. Pedro is old and should really be a rotation player, I can’t be bothered by Willian, Giroud does not score and it is not enough that he makes Hazard play better because we need goal scorers. Morata has a weak mentality and is impacted by twitter trolls and stupid fans. CHO should be playing and his appearances have picked up in recent weeks.
Clearly there needs to be a reshuffle of the squad but the pundits wont see that. Our constant sacking of managers has really impacted the narrative and are squad is a mix of players that suit different styles, but Chelsea and the board seem to be changing albeit slowly. Higuain’s imminent signing means that the board are willing to support the manager once again. Pulisic’s signing and our reluctance to buy a midfielder means that we are thinking about youth and trying to integrate them into the team. Not having sacked Conte in February of 2018 and keeping him until the end of the season was unlike Chelsea. Furthermore grinding it out to get Sarri a trophyless manager is unheard of at our club. Do we have a mentality issue? Yes. Was Sarri wrong? No. Should Sarri look to his squad for solutions? Yes. Do we have a squad to challenge for the title? No, but we somehow manage to still win trophies. Chelsea are the media’s favourite punching bag because Abramovich shook up the status quo and since then we just manage to win trophies no matter what, and when we are going through a dip it’s apparently a crisis.
Sarri and Chelsea are 4th, three points ahead of Arsenal, and United, we are in the 4th round of the FA Cup, and in the semis of the Carabao Cup and have reached the round of 32 in the Europa League. What happens will happen, but Sarri needs to be given time like Klopp, and Poch were and if not then next season with a full pre-season and summer window in Sarri’s bag it is then that he should be judged but that is only because he manages Chelsea. We have several solutions in place and with a proper left back and young striker along with players like Reece James in the mix next season is already looking like a brighter one. Chances are Neville is right and Sarri wont last 18 months but I feel differently and something is changing at Chelsea Football Club albeit very slowly.