The score is 1-1, there are literally seconds until the final whistle and you win a corner. What do you do? Obviously put everyone in that box and swing it in and pray for the best. Well that’s what you do if you are anyone but us. We simply play it short. And that few seconds summarises perfectly what it’s been like to watch Chelsea this season.
Yes, they should have been down to 10 men, and yes we had far more shots, but we still can’t seem to take advantage of the many chances our rivals are giving us to nail that final Champions League place. And if we do somehow manage to get fourth (or even third should Tottenham continue their annual tradition of self-imploding) then what? Does Sarri stay?
Many would have argued at the beginning of the season that top four and possibly a cup is the very most we could expect out of the manager’s first year in charge. He is in danger of delivering just that. But then there is the way we play — could I watch Sarri’s type of football week in week out, even if it suddenly became successful. And I’m not talking about the free flowing inventive stuff he allegedly orchestrated in Naples but the kind of thing we have been subjected to this season.
Those (few) still waving the flag for Sarri will often bring Mourinho into the conversation when talking about style and inventiveness — claiming Jose’s football was basic and dull. I have never understood this argument — anyone that saw his first season with Robben and Duff on the wings could not describe that as dull or utilitarian in any way. And even after Robben’s departure we saw a physical side with heart and determination and a will to win that made any game exhilarating.
Sarri has rarely given us exhilarating. More importantly, he seems totally unable to make us safe defensively. Before yesterday’s match, United hadn’t scored from open play in nine hours of football — yet we are breached within 11 minutes. We have looked vulnerable at the back all season.
Neither have we had a player sent off this season — this may seem like a positive thing, not to me. It tells me that no one really cares enough to get their blood up during a game.
When you look at the successful teams of any league you will find that they usually have a prolific goalscorer, but you will also see that goals have come from every part of the team. Our team ethic seems to be ‘get the ball to Hazard then my work is done’ – as brilliant as he is he can’t carry the entire team.
Should he go, what then? Sarri’s appointment was a stab at revolution rather than evolution . Ultimately, the decision will be up to Roman Abramovich, who has been absent this season. I know better than to believe what I read in the general press about what he intends to do with the club. Mr A doesn’t speak to the press so all they print is a mixture of rumour, gossip, and second-hand musings. Despite not being physically at the matches, he will have watched the majority of them and be more than aware of the situation.
Equally interesting will be the take up of season ticket renewals which have landed on our doorsteps this weekend. Many fans have openly articulated how disenchanted they have become with the football this season. It has been a strange atmosphere in the stands, a disillusionment I have never witnessed in the 40 years I have been coming to Stamford Bridge.
This close season will be the most pivotal in our club’s history. Get it wrong, and we could be in the wilderness for decades. Even if we qualify for the Champions League – because we don’t currently have the squad to compete there. Hold on to your hats, Blues, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.