Manchester City must prioritise Champions League

Leroy Sane

Manchester City were made to work for their midweek Champions League win against German club Schalke on Wednesday night. Finding themselves 2-1 down, goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling with five minutes left has put Pep Guardiola’s side in good stead with three away goals ahead of their return leg in three weeks. Continue reading

The uncertain future of Danny Drinkwater, the Premier League’s forgotten man

Given that Maurizio Sarri is under pressure and Manchester United are the opposition, we can expect Chelsea to field a full-strength starting XI in their FA Cup fifth-round clash with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side on Monday night. With United now having overtaken the Blues in the race for fourth spot, Sarri knows that cup competitions could play a big part in determining his future at Stamford Bridge.

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Sarri, between living up to expectations & not winning any titles

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Why is Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri ready for the sack when others aren’t?

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One of the most bizarre stories to come out of the Premier League this season is the impending doom of Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. It’s even more scarier that it appears to be true and that Sarri may be sent his marching orders from the Chelsea hierarchy after just 6 months in charge.

But why is Sarri facing the sack when nothing is being said of other managers? Most notably look at Arsenal’s Unai Emery. Now he doesn’t deserve the sack but if it’s good enough for Sarri then why isn’t it good enough for Emery. After all both teams have 50 points.

The pressure on Sarri makes no sense at all, it’s not like he is having a Jose Mourinho 3rd season Chelsea stint. The Blues are in the top six and just one point from being in the top 4. They are also let’s not forget in the final of the Carbao Cup and still in the FA Cup and in the knock out stages of the Europa League.

So Sarri being announced as one of the managers who is under real pressure feels like a sad day for football. And of course we know that Chelsea do not mess around once those rumours swirl up.

It is true of course that Chelsea’s form over the past few months has dipped and they have just been smashed by Manchester City 6-0 and the other week they lost away to Bournemouth 4-0. They are having a bad time of it away from home- but let’s not forget that they also beat City at Stamford Bridge earlier this season winning 2-0, in what was an utterly professional display.

So yes The Blues form has slipped and it does look like Eden Hazard will be leaving the club. But even with all of this considered, to sack Sarri despite the promise he has shown in what is his debut season is to punch the philosophy of football in the face. Why are Chelsea not considering keeping Sarri on at least for another season?

There are possibly two reasons for this; The first is that he criticised the players the other week after their listless loss against Arsenal. In this day and age you just can’t do that. The second is that the league has become all about finishing in the top 4, and right now Chelsea are heading for more Europa League football. But it is so tight up there anything can still happen.

Sacking Sarri feels like it will be Chelsea’s loss, and actually they are imitating somewhat the chaotic circus that was Real Madrid from the mid 2000s. History says stick with your man just a little through the hard times, but Sarri’s number seems up.

Sack or back Sarri? Chelsea’s decision will define the type of club they want to be

It seems strange to say now, but Chelsea actually began brightly in Sunday’s clash with Manchester City. The visitors to the Etihad Stadium made their intentions clear early on, pressing high up the pitch from the very first whistle in an attempt to disrupt their opponents’ build-up play. To an extent, it worked: City, who have grown accustomed to visiting sides camping on the edge of their own penalty area, initially looked uncomfortable, but their superior quality ultimately told – and to devastating effect.

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Manchester City rampant as they climb above Liverpool

Sergio aguero

The difference in class between Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea was clear on Sunday afternoon. Irresistible in the first half, City’s five shots at Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal resulted in four of them hitting the back of the net after just 25 minutes.

Raheem Sterling had the hosts a goal up inside after just three minutes with an emphatic finish at the far post and while Sarri called for concentration after conceding so early, it should have been two just seconds later, only for Sergio Aguero to miss seconds later from a yard. Continue reading

Alvaro Morata’s Atletico Madrid move stalls

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Alvaro Morata’s move to La Liga title challengers Atletico Madrid is yet to be completed, with both sides saying they are still some way off an agreement for the 26 year-old.

The Spanish international looks certain to end his stay in West London, but time is running out ahead of the closing of winter transfer window at the end of January.

Atletico have confirmed that they are interested in bringing Morata back to Madrid, where he spent five years at rivals Real Madrid, across two separate spells, however manager Diego Simeone confirmed that nothing is yet agreed between them.

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Chelsea show lack of attacking incision as Southampton collect vital point

Sunday’s clash between Crystal Palace and Chelsea, it is fair to say, will not be included on many end-of-season lists remembering the best games of 2018/19. There were very few chances at either end of the pitch at Selhurst Park, with N’Golo Kante dispatching perhaps the only clear-cut opportunity of the game to give the visitors a 1-0 win.

Chelsea’s next assignment, a home game against Southampton on Wednesday, again featured little in the way of goalmouth action. On this occasion the Blues were not able to find the back of the net at all, as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s charges succeeded in frustrating the top-four aspirants.

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Manchester City get golden draw in Carabao Cup as Tottenham’s Pochettino chases first trophy

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And then there was the final four, and we now know who will play in the Carabao Cup semi finals. Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and…. Burton, who could have guessed?

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will be installed as the favourites to win the competition as Guardiola will chase his 3rd major trophy with the club, and they look assured of a final place since they have been drawn to face Burton. For Burton this is a magical moment make no mistake about it. Not only will they come face to face with the champions of England but they will also play at Wembley Stadium in a prestigious cup semi final and do so against one of the best managers in world football. It is indeed a dream come true for the club, and they should be very proud.

On the flipside though is that it looks like being almost impossible that they will be able to defeat City, but at least they will be given that opportunity and in some ways Burton have won just by getting to a semi final.

Chelsea remain an obvious threat and they will play Tottenham in what should be a fantastic London derby at Wembley. Of course they met here in the league just a few weeks ago where Tottenham inflicted Chelsea’s first defeat of the season in a rather comfortable 3-1 victory. But this match really could go either way and it would be very difficult to pick a winner here.

Tottenham got sweet revenge by knocking out Arsenal at the Emirates by 2-0, the same ground where they lost 4-2 in the league. This was great vindication for the club who have bounced back brilliant well since losing to their old enemy. But if Tottenham are to win their first trophy under Mauricio Pochetino then they will be doing so the hard way. Having to beat the last two champions of the Premier League in Chelsea and Manchester City, well that is how it should work out unless Burton create the shock of shocks and knock City out.

The bookmakers will see a Manchester City-Chelsea final, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Tottenham there. Tottenham need that trophy perhaps more than the other clubs. But at the same time Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri will be looking to win his first trophy with the club. The Carabao Cup may not always be taken seriously but one thing is for sure from this moment on it will be. The semi final games will take place In January with the final to be held at Wembley Stadium on 24th February.

 

 

Bad news for Morata and Giroud as Sarri hands Hazard central role

Given that Maurizio Sarri only made one outfield signing in the summer transfer market, he has done an excellent job at Chelsea so far this season. Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion moved the Blues three points clear of Arsenal in fifth place, with Tottenham Hotspur still just two points ahead in third.

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