After condemning his Chelsea players for lacking motivation and character against Arsenal, Maurizio Sarri could be gone by the end of the week at Stamford Bridge
The suicide note was delivered via an interpreter, in the form of a press conference.
The use of the interpreter was both theatrical and calculating.
Back in November, when Chelsea still looked like realistic title contenders, this website predicted Maurizio Sarri could still, plausibly, be sacked by Christmas.
At the time it seemed far-fetched, but a Chelsea manager is never more than 45 seconds away from a tsunami of derision on social media.
More pertinently he’s never more than three indifferent performances away from incurring the displeasure of the only man whose matters at Stamford Bridge.
After the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in “El Mediocrito” on Saturday night, Sarri gave interviews to first the waiting television crews and then the press, prefacing his remarks by saying he wanted to speak in Italian to be absolutely sure his remarks weren’t lost in translation.
There was little danger of that happening. Sarri’s English is competent and it’s not difficult to translate the phrase: “This group of players are extremely difficult to motivate.”
The remarks were eerily reminiscent of those made by Jose Mourinho, 24 hours before the axe fell on his time at Manchester United.
“I am extremely angry,” Sarri said. “Very angry indeed because this defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else, our mental approach because we played against a team that was far more determined mentally than we were and this is something I can’t accept.”
Following the same path as Jose Mourinho
This of course, implies he has a choice. Reflecting on the rise of player power this week, Mourinho observed that in his first era with Chelsea, players like Drogba, Cech and Terry liked to be criticised because they wanted to be the best and knew that any criticism was designed to improve and motivate them.
Sarri’s first problem is that Kepa isn’t Cech, Pedro isn’t Drogba and David Luiz certainly isn’t John Terry. His second problem is that while the goods are inferior, the prices have rocketed.
If a manager openly admits he can’t motivate a player, the easiest solution for the club is to dispose of the cheaper asset, which is why Sarri’s words after the Arsenal match sounded so terminal.
“We had a similar issue in the league game at Tottenham,” he said. “We spoke a great deal about that particular loss and our approach at the time. I thought we had managed to overcome this issue … but the fact of the matter is it appears this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate. When you see this kind of game, when one team is more determined than the other, we can’t really talk about tactics. From a technical point of view I think the teams are pretty much on the same level but when Arsenal are more determined than us, the tactics don’t even come into it.”
It’s difficult to see what Sarri stands to gain from these remarks, other than admiration for his candour. It smacks of a final throw of the dice, one last attempt to provoke some kind of a reaction to defibrillate a season drifting towards irrelevance, but which might yet see them win a cup double.
Football has always been an industry reliant on scapegoats, but Chelsea’s fan base has become insatiable. The hashtag #SarriOut was already trending after the defeat to Arsenal and it isn’t difficult to translate what his post-match statements really mean. He, like everyone else, knows that if Chelsea don’t overturn a 1-0 deficit at home to Spurs on Thursday, in the second leg of their league cup semi-final, Sarri will be on ice so thin it wouldn’t support an anorexic crane fly.