When I was in college I briefly dated a stripper. At the beginning it was very exciting, I could brag to my friends about how hot she was, she brought a lot of good looking friends to parties and she made me feel like a rock star. But as time passed, the idea that she was doing her “job” in front of other guys caused a lot tension and it became too much for me to handle, so I decided to break it off and go with a more traditional girlfriend.
I’ve been thinking about this phase of my life since Maurizio Sarri’s time at Chelsea took a turn for the worse in recent weeks and especially after the embarrassing loss to Manchester City last weekend. The stripper was ultimately acting exactly as I should have expected her to, so in the end I had no one butmyself to blame when we broke it off.
You see anyone who has followed Sarri’s tenure at Napoli closely could have seen all of this coming, as a matter a fact the only surprising aspect of his time at Chelsea so far, was the team’s very fast start despite going from Conte’s SufferBall to the much more offensive and glitzy SarriBall.
Serie A junkies like myself figured it was only a matter of time until Sarri’s shortcomings would start becoming talking points for his critics in the Premier League. The lack of squad rotation and stubborn refusal to play younger players became amplified at Chelsea since the Blues have more options on both countsthan Napoli, and while Sarri had said all the right things upon arriving at Stamford Bridge, he recently started showing his poor sportsmanship and willingness to blame others as things took a turn for the worst.
Mind you being proven right in this case (at least so far) wasn’t particularly pleasurable for me. You see Sarri is probably my favorite figure in Italian football of the past 5 years, I remember my friend Enrico Passarella (who also writes for this site) telling me to pay close attention to Sarri’s Empoli after they were promoted to Serie A a few years ago.
I remember watching them for the first time when they travelled to face Napoli at the San Paolo and I was so impressed with the fact they played such an attractive and distinct style even when facing the top Italian teams on away matches. As a matter a fact Empoli was so impressive when they faced Milan at San Siro that Silvio Berlusconi had flashbacks to Arrigo Sacchi when he was at Parma and pushed to hire him until he learned about his left wing leaning politics, too much to handle on top of the fact that Sarri liked to wear track suit on the sidelines.
While Sarri’s lack of rotating players at Napoli was also exasperated by the serious injuries to Faouzi Ghoulam and Arkadiusz Milik in his last season at the club, it was not surprising to see him continue this trend at Chelsea. Meanwhile at his former club, Ancelotti was praised for using twelve different lineups to start his tenure under the Vesuvius while giving opportunities to players Sarri often ignored in Milenkovicand Ounas.
In addition to using more members of the squad regularly, Ancelotti also showed considerable more tactical flexibility of Sarri. The former Milan and Real Madrid manager used different formations and wasn’t afraid to change the strategy during matches, something Sarri essentially still refuses to do still today. Not surprisingly considering his experience at top clubs, Ancelotti has shown to be much more polished with his communication with the media and peers than Sarri who was known for vulgar language and Herculean ability to complainabout all sorts of different topics (scheduling of matches, pitch conditions, international breaks) after a disappointing performance.
But while all these changes at Napoli sounds great, in Sarri’sdefense, the results have so far gotten worst. The partenopeihave been eliminated in both the Champions League and the Coppa Italia and find themselves with eight less points than this time last year when they were more than holding up with Juventus in Serie A with essentially the same squad when you consider that Fabian Ruiz, often praised as one the best players to arrive in Serie A last summer replacing Jorginho.
Speaking of Juventus, the other criticism that Sarri often receives “HE HASN’T WON ANY TITLES” ignores the bianconeri’s strength (not to mention the fact that he never managed a top tier team in Italy until arriving at Napoli). At the end of the day only won team can win the league title, which was Napoli’s only objective last season after they saw an opening following Bonucci’s (temporary) departure from Turin.
While Sarri’s squad could have showed more mental fortitude following Juventus’ comeback win at San Siro against Inter and they did run out of gas at the end of the season because of lack of rotation (which again was also partly to blame to the injuries to Ghoulam and Milik), the team still finished with 91 points- the most ever by a team not to win the Serie A title and a higher total than Juventus achieved multiple times during their recent long streak of consecutive league titles.
Certainly, Sarri has his faults, but since August they have been the exact same ones that anyone that knew him saw coming. Just like me with the stripper I dated in college, when someone turns out to be exactly as you expected have to blame yourself.