Chelsea managers are rarely granted the opportunity of a second chance. As soon as their masterplan is deemed to have failed, they’re often out the Stamford Bridge exit door.
Previous achievements usually count for nothing as current success is seemingly the priority for trigger-happy Roman Abramovich – who has seen off 10 managers during his ownership of the club (as Maurizio Sarri looks set to become victim number 11).
However, Sarri may be breaking a trend at Chelsea by walking out himself with Juventus reportedly calling him to his native home – and with the Italian delivering Champions League football and a European trophy in his first season, there may be a sense of regret that the current situation has been allowed to manifest itself.
And having emerged from the depths of the second Jose Mourinho era as runaway champions and cup winners in two seasons under Antonio Conte, the knee-jerk reaction that led to the former coach’s dismissal may be haunting the Chelsea board with the division that has surfaced during Sarri’s short tenure.
Conte was the darling of the Stamford Bridge faithful as his extravagant touchline celebrations and his effortless capture of the Premier League trophy endeared himself to the supporters.
But the downfall that followed the year after was not of Conte’s doing – leaving him a victim of the success enjoyed during the preceding season, as well as two major components to their 2016/17 title win (in Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa) departing West London without being replaced sufficiently, as the likes of Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko failed to hit the ground running and give their title defence any kind of lift-off.
Finishing so far off the pace probably did for Conte in the end – if not a lack of perspective. Inheriting a mid-table Chelsea and turning them into champions is the work of a messiah. It was a freak season by anyone’s standards. That the team slumped a year later should have been no huge surprise – and just how bad the side were at times last season under Sarri suggests Conte’s methods were not at fault.
If anything, Chelsea fell into the same old trap of being disappointed at not being champions – which is an admirable attitude to have, but for a club that has lacked any sort of managerial stability, a bit of realism and gauging the true potential of the side would have made retaining Conte’s services the easy and right decision.
Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and foreseeing Sarri so close to an exit after such a successful first year may have given Abramovich second thoughts given Conte’s loftier achievements at the Bridge.