Maurizio Sarri’s future at Chelsea is at risk as a dramatic drop in form and positive results across the winter period has left a number of his players concerned that his football philosophy is not getting the best out of the squad at his disposal, Goal understands.
Chelsea’s main priority for the season is to qualify for next term’s Champions League competition, but an embarrassing 6-0 defeat away to Manchester City at the weekend has left the club in sixth place in the Premier League.
The Europa League offers another route into Europe’s elite club competition, and with Chelsea having drawn Malmo – the team with the smallest wage budget of the remaining 32 clubs – the Blues should fancy their chances of progression.
Unrest at the club threatens to derail those hopes, however, with a series of humbling defeats in recent times leading to doubts amongst the group after the Italian trainer was initially welcomed with open arms as the Blues returned to fast-paced, possession-based football upon his arrival.
Chelsea’s players are understood to be unhappy with a rigid and automatic approach to training, with the manager’s drills designed to fast-track the group into understanding his methodology. There are also concerns over limitations of freedom of movement on the pitch.
In addition, frustrations have been aired over the timing of training sessions, with some starting as late as 3pm and dragging into the evening.
Sarri has also divided his squad into two parts – a core group and a fringe group – as he attempts to speed up the process of educating the players he feels are best picking up his philosophy. As a result, several members of the team have been left feeling neglected.
A lack of rotation has become glaringly obvious under the 60-year-old, meaning several players who are used to getting game time have been marginalised, while Callum Hudson-Odoi’s lack of minutes was a significant factor behind his desire to join Bayern Munich in January.
The club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, has taken an increasingly hands-off approach this season, but Sarri is relying on the patience of a man who is very well known for having little of it.
A refusal to adjust his methods smacks of a confidence in himself, but whether Abramovich will feel the same remains to be seen.
Sarri conducted training with his assistant manager Gianfranco Zola, a Chelsea icon, on Monday and meaning Zola is well placed to lead the club until the end of the season should the club’s results continue to decline.