An emphatic win for Chelsea and first goals for Gonzalo Higuain yesterday will temporarily settle down the noise at Stamford Bridge but longer-term, Maurizio Sarri is not out of the woods yet.
First, the positive news. Chelsea are still realistic contenders for three trophies and if they win a couple out of the Europa League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, I don’t think you could argue against it being a successful time for the Italian in his first season here.
If the gamble to criticise his players was politically motivated to bring in a striker he knows and likes – Higuain – it has worked in the short-term. The Argentine is a class act and there were some signs against Huddersfield yesterday that he and Eden Hazard might build a good relationship on the park.
And yet there is plenty of doubt Sarri will still be at Stamford Bridge next season to build the project properly. You only have to look at Chelsea’s past history on managers who fail to finish in the top four.
The Chelsea fans have been alarmed by the club’s inconsistency in recent weeks following a bright start to the season.
I’m alarmed by the way Sarri has spoken more than once about struggling to motivate the players. That is highly unusual and very high risk. In a sense, you are putting the plank out for yourself. He can’t do it again and if results don’t improve, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will ask why his manager can’t motivate the players.
Beating Huddersfield is a step in the right direction but let’s be honest, a small one.
The Terriers are bottom of the table with just 11 points and have just lost the manager, David Wagner, who signed most of the players.
Like any striker, Higuain will be pleased to get off the mark at a new club and he showed what a fine finisher he is. But I never saw him as being a problem – he was always going to score at some point. He’s too good not to. I watched his debut against Sheffield Wednesday and his movement was brilliant.
No, Chelsea’s problems are deeper-rooted than that. They could lose Hazard and Callum Hudson-Odoi and while N’Golo Kante appears a level-headed lad, he won’t be happy playing out of position to accommodate Sarri-ball indefinitely.
The manager doesn’t seem to be in the loop with some signings like Christian Pulisic.
I actually like his honesty on one level but digging the players out is questionable from a management perspective. He has built a rod for his own back. What if Chelsea suffer a couple more defeats like the one at Bournemouth? What does he say then? He can’t repeat himself again.
I think there will be major surgery at Chelsea over the next couple of years. Thrashing Huddersfield is all well and good but I think Sarri needs to win at least one trophy and qualify for the Champions League if he wants to take pre-season training again in July.Daily Mail