The man with the long-term plan

Credit: Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Goodison Park was a travesty. The players failed to show up in the second half while it’s clear that we grossly underestimated Everton. There have even been whispers in the mainstream media that Sarri has taken this team as far as he can. The BBC went so far as to suggest that Chelsea has reached their limit under the Italian manager.

That’s, of course, nothing more than weak journalism. Bandwagons are there for jumping on, and in recent weeks and months, we’ve seen Man City, Liverpool, the Spurs, and even Everton go through a crisis of some sort. This week, it’s our turn despite the fact that we’re in the quarters of the Europa League up against a beatable Slavia Prague team. It’s total crisis time. We’re sure you’ll agree.

So, let’s forget the humiliation of defeat at Goodison and focus on Sarri’s poker strategy because let’s face it, the man is in it for the long haul. Yes, we’re looking for a silver lining in what could yet prove to be a dead rubber of a season. You know us though, we’re nothing if not optimists.

The Poker Strategy

Sarri’s approach to the game differs from past Chelsea managers who adopted the traditional poker strategy of gathering strong cards and playing their best hand. Theirs was an apparent low-risk strategy that pretty much gave them the best opportunity for success. However, as Antonio Conte and old José Mourinho will attest, it can come back to bite you badly.

Sarri, on the other hand, with his background in banking, has taken a far different approach but one that poker players will be quite familiar. Sarri plays for long-term gains, an approach that he no doubt picked up during his time in finance. He picks a strategy and sticks to it, doggedly no matter what happens in the meantime.

Now, for many fans, this may seem like stubbornness or even spite, but to a poker player, it’s plain common sense. The idea is that when you know you have a winning strategy, you stick to it even when at times, it fails miserably. You know that at some point it will all come together, and you’ll take home the pot. Unfortunately for Sarri, football is a fickle mistress, and clubs, supporters, and even the players have little patience for long-term strategies.

Sarri’s Long-term Vision Provides Stability

Hazard has been the one constant in recent Chelsea teams

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 2.0

In recent seasons, we’ve been a team that has adapted to change easily. You could say we had no option considering the number of managers and tactical changes we’ve had. Nevertheless, we seemed to thrive on a certain amount of chaos in our ranks, which at times, led us to success.

However, in Sarri, we’ve finally found a manager willing to stick to his guns and provide the team with an air of stability that we’ve lacked in recent times. The gung-ho, buy-all approach of past management structures did bring us success, but it’s no way to run a football club in the long-term. And with a transfer ban looming, it has to stop.

It’s clear that Sarri’s strategy, which focuses on consistency in tactics and team management, may not be the most popular approach with the club’s supporters and even the players. But it’s a strategy that encourages stability, and one that the club has needed for quite some time. And who are we to argue?

Sarriball a Work in Progress

While our manager has been regularly and quite bizarrely mocked by his former employer at Napoli, Aurelio De Laurentiis, for not winning trophies, he transformed Napoli. Under Rafa Benitez, the team had stagnated, and when the Spaniard left for Real, Sarri came in to bring stability to a club losing its way. And the results speak for themselves.

Season Manager Points League position
2013/14 Rafael Benitez 78 3rd
2014/15 Rafael Benitez 63 5th
2015/16 Maurizio Sarri 82 2nd
2016/17 Maurizio Sarri 86 3rd
2017/18 Maurizio Sarri 91 2nd

The results speak for themselves.

Sarri’s consistency (poker strategy!) is apparent for all to see. In his final season, he took the club to a record 91 points but failed to win a trophy. Supporters want silverware, but to mock him for improving the team so consistently is nothing short of laughable.

The man took Higuaín to new heights, made Jorghino (a former bit-part player) the fulcrum of the team, broke records at the club and fell just short of usurping Juventus as Italy’s best team. In fact, for much of his time at the club, many felt that Napoli played the most attractive football in the league while Juve kept grinding out results.

At Chelsea, he may not enjoy the immediate success that many expected, but given time, there will be an improvement. Sarri is a long-term manager with a clear vision of how the team should play and where he sees the club in two or three seasons. If the club wants any semblance of stability, then it must stick by Sarri for at least one more season.

Of course, winning the Europa League would go a long way to appeasing both the fans and the board, but even if we fall at the final hurdle, this season should reflect what it is: a transitional year. We need stability, and if Sarri’s poker strategy is what it takes to get there, then so be it. The club and the supporters need to get on board with Sarriball (even though it might not work immediately) and support the manager in every decision he makes.

Sarri is the man for Chelsea, and Chelsea is the club for Sarri. He has the vision to take us forward and create a legacy at the club. All he needs now is the means to do so. Banish those “Sarri out” thoughts from your head and think on what next season holds for us because if Sarri is at the helm, then progress is practically guaranteed.