Supporter dissent was very much in evidence on Monday, with angry fans chanting ‘f*** Sarri-ball’ and ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ at the Italian manager.
Chelsea fans turned on manager Maurizio Sarri during Monday’s 2-0 loss to Manchester United
Eden Hazard rues a missed opportunity as Chelsea exited the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge
Sarri has remained stubborn when it comes to tactics and style of play, the result being that opponents have worked him out and there doesn’t appear to be a plan B.
The players seem to be baffled by the concepts he is trying to get across and the absence of owner Roman Abramovich isn’t helping matters.
So who’s to blame for this latest mess at Chelsea and could yet another managerial change be on the cards?
Russian owner Roman Abramovich has always been a steely but reassuring presence in the background at Chelsea since his takeover back in 2003.
But his decision to withdraw an application for a British visa at the start of June, following delays in the process, upset the flow of things at Stamford Bridge.
The Home Office had introduced more stringent visa regulations for high worth individuals in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, which strained relations between Britain and Russia.
Abramovich instead secured an Israeli passport but, despite being entitled to visit the UK for a ‘maximum period of six months’, he hasn’t been seen at the club this season.
Owner Roman Abramovich hasn’t been seen at the club since withdrawing a visa application
Days after Abramovich’s decision, it was announced that a £500million plan to transform Stamford Bridge into a 60,000-capacity stadium by the 2021-22 season had been shelved.
Chelsea put this down to ‘the current unfavourable investment climate’ but admitted they were unsure when or if the project would be resurrected.
It inevitably led to suggestions that Abramovich had lost interest in the club and could even sell, though Chelsea have strenuously denied such suggestions.
Abramovich may be in the background at present, but his investment in the squad certainly hasn’t dried up.
Chelsea have spent £186.6m this season on Jorginho, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Christian Pulisic. The latter will join them from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
Director Marina Granovskaia welcomes loanee striker Gonzalo Higuain to the club last month
The club have also signed Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain on loan this season, but there are now question marks over whether some of these new arrivals are good enough.
Day-to-day decision-making and a link between the club and the owner is provided by director and trusted Abramovich lieutenant Marina Granovskaia.
She has risen from working as Abramovich’s PA at his oil company to one of the most influential figures at the club, with a say in transfer dealings and contract negotiations.
Granovskaia played an important role in the appointment of Sarri from Napoli last summer but as the manager fails to perform, questions are now being asked of her.
Another crucial figure in deciding Sarri’s Chelsea future is chairman Bruce Buck, who observed the fan dissent first-hand on Monday night.
Plans for a £500m redevelopment of Stamford Bridge have been placed on hold for now
There were certainly no ‘f*** Sarri-ball’ chants when Chelsea were going 18 matches unbeaten in all competitions from the start of the Premier League season.
Sarri’s patented style of football, which had proved so exciting to watch at Napoli, appeared to have transferred successfully into the English game.
The turning point came on November 24, when Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino deployed Dele Alli to man mark Jorginho and inflicted Chelsea’s first league defeat of the season.
In doing so, Sarri’s game plan had basically been worked out and, as has become painfully apparent during the seven defeats they have suffered since, there is no Plan B.
Among those losses have been a 4-0 thumping at Bournemouth, after which Sarri held a 50-minute inquest in the dressing room, and a 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City which nicely illustrated just how far Chelsea have declined since their last title win in 2017.
Chelsea fans chanted ‘f*** Sarri-ball’ as they turned against their manager on Monday night
In all of these games, Sarri has been stubborn and refused to budge from his tried and tested game plan when things have been going wrong. He doesn’t seem to know another way of playing, nor be willing to accept tactical flexibility.
The fact that Ross Barkley has been brought on for Kovacic 20 times now this season sums up how clueless Sarri is for many Chelsea fans.
And there was fury when he decided to bring on defender Davide Zappacosta for Cesar Azpilicueta late on against United while talented attacker Callum Hudson-Odoi sat on the bench.
The best managers evolve after adversity, but Sarri isn’t showing any signs of abandoning the methods that served him so well in Italy. There isn’t a Sarri-ball 2.0 it would appear.
And it is hastening his exit at a club notorious for lacking patience with under-performing managers.
Sarri has now brought Ross Barkley on for Mateo Kovacic 20 times this season
Monday night’s performance was yet another this season when it seemed like no Chelsea player wanted to accept responsibility.
There was a lot of finger-pointing, vexed expressions and head shaking as United established and then comfortably preserved their two-goal lead.
Chelsea regulars would spot the similarities with the losses to Leicester, Arsenal, Manchester City and Bournemouth in recent times and conclude that this set of players have once again downed tools.
Historically, Chelsea’s dressing room is famous for player power, something which has seen off a number of managers whose approach the core of the squad disagree with.
Defender David Luiz looks dejected during what was another trying night for Chelsea
Eden Hazard, who is likely to leave for Real Madrid during the summer, looks dejected
Premier League unless stated
Thursday Malmo (H)
Europa League last-32, second leg
Sunday Manchester City (Wembley)
Carabao Cup final
February 27 Tottenham (H)
March 3 Fulham (A)
March 10 Wolves (H)
March 17 Everton (A)
This usually becomes apparent with a lack of effort and the slipping of standards on the pitch.
Eden Hazard, who is likely to be leaving for Real Madrid in the summer, is producing nothing like his sparkling early season form.
And the team in general looks devoid of ideas or inspiration when the odds are stacked against them.
Sarri said his team played ‘confused’ football in the second-half on Monday yet it is the players who are left baffled by the avalanche of tactical information piled on them in pursuit of his ‘Sarri-ball’ philosophy.
This is a set of players more than capable of adapting to new tactical ideas – just look at their success when Antonio Conte switched from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3 mid-season – but Sarri doesn’t appear willing or able to change.
And unfortunately, it has only hastened him to the exit door.