In a hugely unsurprising turn of events, Chelsea have sacked Antonio Conte. Rumours have been flying for months now, about the club pursuing former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri. After Carlo Ancelotti replaced him at Napoli, Sarri is expected to be confirmed as the new Chelsea boss in the next few days. Conte had divided opinions within the Chelsea fan-base, with some desperate for him to be given a chance this season, and others calling for his head.
WHO IS HE BRINGING WITH HIM?
If various Italian “in-the-know” Twitter accounts are to be believed, Napoli’s Jorginho has already completed a medical at Chelsea, with the club having agreed to a fee worth around £57 million. Initially, he was linked with Man City, but Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis set the record straight, revealing that whilst the two clubs had reached an agreement, Jorginho preferred a move to London over Manchester. That said, this may have been swayed by Chelsea offering him higher wages.
Chelsea fans will be excited at the prospect of seeing Jorginho sign, given his reputation for being one of the best distributors in Europe. The Brazilian-born Italy international created 44 chances last season in Serie A.
Also rumoured to be accompanying Sarri is 30-year-old Argentinian Gonzalo Higuain. The two worked together at Napoli, before Higuain moved to Juventus. Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock transfer to the Old Lady, he may be looking for a move away from Italy. It is believed he will be available for £48.5million and would be keen to join Chelsea – who have been linked to him in several successive summer transfer windows. The only caveat to this could be his wage demands, which Chelsea might be unwilling to pay for a player of his age. As a Chelsea fan, I’d be more than happy for Morata to be sold, to free up some cash. He has never gelled with the style of play needed and I find it very difficult to warm to him.
REVOLVING DOOR OF MANAGERS
Antonio Conte has been given a £9million fee for being dismissed by Chelsea. This means Chelsea have now paid out £90million in the Abramovich era to managers we’ve sacked. I’ve said it before on numerous occasions, but this is not a sustainable way of running a club. Of course, Chelsea had a less than impressive season last time around, although we did manage to win the FA Cup. The season before that, we won the league. At some point, we must think about our expectations of a manager. Managers are scarcely being given the chance to settle in before we sack them.
Most of us saw this coming, though. The relationship between Conte and the club had been strained for quite some time. Rumours of him being undermined by the board in terms of transfer targets, Roman refusing to listen to him, or just tightening his purse strings were floated around. Conte apparently almost quit in August 2017, after a poor transfer window. It seemed that Conte, as most Chelsea managers have been, was the scapegoat for the club’s ills. Poor player performances and the fact he reportedly hadn’t been given much control over spending didn’t seem to matter – the blame was just apportioned to Conte. The sale of Matic to Man Utd didn’t sit well with him, especially as he was unable to sign worthy replacements – yet, was expected to take the fall when what he had been warning of all along (Bakayoko being unprepared to replace him) became evident.
I’ve felt quite uncomfortable about the rising egos of some players in the Chelsea squad, with player power running riot. No player is ever bigger than a club. Yet Eden Hazard thinks he is. After losing to Man City early last season, he came out and criticised Conte, and has recently said he will be waiting to see who we sign, before deciding whether to stay. He’s been vocal regarding his flirtations with Real Madrid, too. Many people believe it came down to the board having to choose between Conte or Hazard staying. And the board have seemingly chosen Hazard. This sets a dangerous precedent, which will undoubtedly return to haunt future managers.
WHY CAN’T CHELSEA KEEP A MANAGER?
Abramovich needs to take some of the blame. Conte was not the first manager he undermined. Jose Mourinho’s first stint at the club was marred by his fall-out with the Russian. Despite back-to-back Premier League titles and great signings, Roman began to undermine Jose and force him to play a certain way.
Despite Mourinho’s reluctance to sign (and then subsequently play) Andriy Shevchenko, Roman had his heart set on him, and, in turn, forced Jose’s hand. He then hired Avram Grant as a director of football, even though Jose didn’t approve of working with one. Despite having the 3rd highest win percentage in Premier League history whilst at Chelsea, Roman sacked Carlo Ancelotti in a corridor, which goes to show that there’s often a lack of respect for club staff.
The players ousted Avram Grant who, despite managing to win every home game that season and finishing 2nd in the league, was deemed to be under-qualified to manage the squad. The same happened with Scolari, who the players also turned against, when they felt his tactics weren’t good enough – openly criticising him to the press. When Di Matteo managed the team, the season after winning the Champions League, as results began to dry up, it’s alleged senior players started taking over managerial duties.
If you look at a combination of Roman undermining and mistreating managers, and the players disrespecting them with no recourse, you begin to see why Chelsea have had a merry-go-round of managers.
IS SARRI THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB?
At this point, I’ve given up with any sort of expectation that a Chelsea manager might stay more than 2 seasons – 3 at a push. I don’t say this lightly, but we could learn a lot from the patience shown by Arsenal and Man Utd, to Wenger and Fergie respectively. I hope Sarri does well. He has a 66% win rate out of 147 matches as Napoli manager. That’s just 1% lower than Mourinho’s first stint at Chelsea. Of course, there are many different variables that mean Napoli and Chelsea aren’t a like-for-like comparison, but such statistics may go some way to win over those dubious about Sarri’s arrival.
Chelsea have always played well under Italians. Vialli, Di Matteo, Ranieri, Ancelotti, and most recently Conte, have all made their mark on the club. It’s encouraging that the club may be allowing Sarri some freedom regarding transfers. However, as we’ve seen, nothing is ever straightforward for Chelsea, so I’m not under any illusion that Sarri will be allowed to cultivate a legacy.
Think Sarri will join Chelsea? Check out this great football betting guide for the latest odds.