It finally happened exactly two days ago, when the vast majority of Chelsea had last year’s Christmas wish come true. The club confirmed the departure of their manager Maurizio Sarri to Juventus.
Sarri’s spell at Chelsea was painful to watch for neutrals. Not primarily because of the way his team played football, no, but because of the amount of vitriol the Chelsea fan base had. It was unadulterated, undiluted, corrosive. The rest of us couldn’t figure out why a fanbase would turn on a new manager as quickly as it did.
Sarri though, justifying his time, won the Europa League emphatically against their high-nosed North London rivals, Arsenal. The silverware will only tell half the story, the fact that he made quite-a-many Chelsea fans do a full 180 degrees, is a much bigger victory than any scoreline of pounds of silver can attest to. Made Jorginho the conductor of Chelsea’s orchestra, tutored Eden Hazard into producing his most productive season, dragged Chelsea to an improbable 3rd point finish in the Premier league’s most competitive season ever, subjected Arsenal to Europa League football next season, with former player Olivier Giroud sinking the figurative poniard into the beating heart of his once-beloved Gunners. Seen in context, the toe end of his season was the upturn of a redemption arc - one which could have taught the Chelsea fans and the players a valuable lesson in the art of the process. He left Stamford Bridge making them feel like this could have been the start of something.
Whoever now takes the helm, will have to consider what he’s getting into. This is a job that made Champions League winning manager Rafael Benitez look befuddled, bullied and haunted World Cup-winning manager Luiz Scolari, multiple Serie A winning Antonio Conte, and the next best manager in the world, Andre Villas-Boas. Whosoever comes next will have to account the sense of privilege Chelsea as a football club had. They were the Manchester City before Manchester City, the first hiss of lighting’s forked turn warning the world of a paradigm shift in football - one that is lorded over by oligarchs.
We look at a few of the candidates:
If you’re a betting man, this would be a banker. The Chelsea hierarchy looks poised to make the same mistakes Manchester United made, by going for the crowd-pleaser move. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reminded us that Occam’s razor is a rule of thumb, not one of Moses’s 10 dictums.
Having guided Derby to the success of the Championship playoff in his first full season, losing out on promotion to the Premier League beaten by Aston Villa, he’s in pole position among the candidates.
Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s player for 13 years, had Derby playing an exciting brand of open, attacking football, that brushed aside a more tactically astute Leeds United led by super-manager Marcelo Bielsa. These factors had led many to believe his candidacy.
Frank Lampard can, however, address the issue Chelsea has when it comes to giving their academy players game-time. With Derby County, he has given the likes of Jayden Bogle, Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount a good run. Also bringing out the qualities of Liverpool players out on loan, Harry Wilson’s talent - giving Jurgen Klopp with another decision to make in the summer.
Nuno Espirito Santo
The Wolves manager is one of the best managers in the league. In fact, it wouldn't be far-fetched to state that he’s probably the best outside the top four. Which presupposes that he’s better than Unai Emery? Quite likely. Does that also presume that he’s better than Manchester United’s manager? Definitely.
Nuno Espirito's Wolves holds the distinction of the only club to have beaten all of the four finalists of the Champions League and the Europa League (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham). Nuno has given the underachieving Wolves a glint in their eyes and an edge to their bite.
Capable of opening and closing their team shape like an unfurling fist, Wolves have taken the game to their more illustrious, top table royalty and blown away their competition. They finished the 2018-19 season sixth behind Manchester United.
The tactical clarity aids the adventure done within the bounds of a team structure. Well-directed long balls and one-touch passing has carved up opponents at turnovers.
Chelsea could do with an authoritarian, and someone whose voice like Metatron’s, lords of technical directors, players, and politics. Chelsea need someone with uncorrupted clarity and an adamantium hand, and Nuno Espirito should be the man.
Nuno Espirito's template of a 3-man backline can be directly supplanted over to Chelsea’s who are well familiar with that set-up, having won their last Premier League with it.
Like Wolves, Watford have brandished a form of fearless football this past season. A more toned down one. FA cup finalists finished 11th in the league due to a lack of balance in transition, and often their overload would keep the backdoor open. The ideas took longer to translate into muscle memory. It’s still a testament to Javi Gracia, as the 11th spot is, in fact, their highest-ever finish in the top flight. There is a general feeling underachievement and not overachievement. That bodes well as it finally signals Watford’s self-assuredness in the Premier League. Gracia also has a better win ratio than the managers at Watford who came before him.
This would be a God-awful decision. Jose Mourinho is finding his centre in punditry. His toxic, self-destructive habits of pitting the world against him to motivate the team with siege-mentality has been overplayed to ad nauseum. It’s too early for him to return to the game. Not before he remedies himself, certainly not before he asks himself why he’s had the carpet yanked under him at his dream job in Manchester United, and on sabbatical in the first place. He needs to find the man before the Champions Leagues, at Porto. A man who facilitated growth, honesty, and faith. There’s a lot of soul searching to do.
The ex-Juventus man would be a safer option, but not one that inspires excitement. There’s no denying that low-key Maxi Allegri is a serial winner, winning 11 titles in 5 years. He was asked to leave due to a lack of success at the European level. This could be an indication that Allegri is more of a league-manager not having the tactical answers when facing transcontinental odds. This could pose questions of whether he’d be able to supplant his Italian success here in England. Would Chelsea take the chance of replacing an Italian manager with another one? Unlikely, but then again this is a Chelsea that doesn’t make the smartest of operational decisions.
Updated Date: Jun 18, 2019 16:13:23 IST