Despite Cardiff victory, it is hard to see Sarri still being Chelsea manager next term

Neil Warnock was not happy in the slightest. The combustible Yorkshireman has never been shy in venting his anger at match officials, but even by his standards this was quite the tirade.

“”It’s difficult because I am really flat. I am so proud of my players,” the Cardiff City manager said after his side’s controversial 2-1 defeat by Chelsea on Sunday.

“To get let down by the officials… roll on VAR. We worked three weeks for this but to get let down by decisions… no major decisions went for us. They don’t realise what is at stake. If I was a Burnley or a Brighton fan, they will be absolutely loving it today.

“It’s not our fault an official can’t see that, it is the most obvious offside I have ever seen or the most certain penalty I have ever seen. What goes through my mind? Is it payback time for me over the years?

“It’s the best league in the world but the worst officials. They don’t understand what is at stake. They shouldn’t make mistakes at this level. Why am I working at 70 years of age for things like that to happen? It’s not very often I am lost for words.

“My players feel like they have been kicked in the teeth. We’ve been kicked so many times. I don’t deserve officials like that today. There is no excuse for that, it’s criminal.”

In fairness to Warnock, it was not hard to work out why he was so infuriated by events at the Cardiff City Stadium. The hosts took the lead through Victor Camarasa early in the second half, but the game was turned on its head when Cesar Azpilicueta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek found the net late on. Replays showed that Azpilicueta was clearly offside when he headed home from close range, while Cardiff were also aghast when they did not get a penalty when Sean Morrison was tugged in the box by Antonio Rudiger.  The Chelsea centre-back could also have been sent off when he brought down Kenneth Zohore when the Cardiff substitute was racing through on goal, but referee Craig Pawson ruled that the foul was only worthy of a yellow card.

The refereeing decisions dominated post-match discussions, which probably did Sarri a favour given how poor his team were for most of this game. Cardiff performed well in a 3-2 defeat by Arsenal back in September, but their other meetings with big-six sides have been decidedly one-sided. Manchester City won 5-0 in south Wales early in the season, while Tottenham Hotspur won 3-0 and Manchester United ran out 5-1 victors just before Christmas.

Chelsea may have ultimately gained the same amount of points from their trip to Wales as the aforementioned sides, but this was a match they could easily have lost. The first half was a 45-minute display of sterile domination, as Chelsea enjoyed 73.5 per cent possession without landing a single shot on target.

They did at least increase that figure to three after the interval – although one was the Azpilicueta header which should have been ruled out – but the Blues rarely threatened the Cardiff goal until the closing stages. The introduction of Eden Hazard in the 53rd minute did instigate something of an upturn, but that merely emphasises how reliant Chelsea are on their star man.

Most significantly, there were numerous instances of the away fans vocalising their displeasure. “You don’t know what you doing” was sung when Sarri opted to bring on Olivier Giroud rather than Callum Hudson-Odoi as his final substitute, while there were also chants of “we want Sarri out”. Such open mutiny in English football is rare, and it is hard to see how the former Napoli manager can find a way back from that.

Chelsea are now just one point behind third-placed Tottenham and kept pace with Manchester United, who were also a little fortunate to win 2-1 against Watford. They have a winnable home game against Brighton and Hove Albion to come in midweek, before welcoming an out-of-form West Ham United to Stamford Bridge next Monday. The Blues are still right in the mix for the top-four places, and they could even secure Champions League qualification via the alternative route of the Europa League.

Nevertheless, it is increasingly difficult to envisage Sarri still being in charge of Chelsea next season. The supporters are clearly not on board with his style of play, and although it is possible to feel some sympathy for the Italian, his public criticism of his players has not helped either. Once again, Roman Abramovich will probably be looking for a new manager this summer.

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