On Thursday afternoon, Sky Sports News reported that Roma had contacted Maurizio Sarri’s representatives about the possibility of a quick exit from Stamford Bridge and a return to Italy next season. It’s certainly a story to quicken the pulse of incumbent manager Eusebio Di Francesco, but with Roma experiencing a downturn this year and currently sitting behind both Milan clubs and outside the Champions League places, it can hardly be a surprise to him.
But this feels more important to Chelsea, in the context of their long-term future. Apportioning blame for the club’s issues this season can never be exact. It wouldn’t be correct to claim that Sarri is a bystander to this malaise, nor would be it accurate to pretend that the club’s stubborn, inflexible structure isn’t complicit in it either.
Nevertheless, if Roma’s interest is to be believed, then it provides Roman Abramovich and Marina Granovskaia with an appealing exit strategy and the chance to backtrack on their attempts to import a long-term managerial visiion. Perhaps more importantly, it gives them the opportunity to do that without having to fund another enormous redundancy settlement.
The downside is clear, though. If Sarri were to be shunted back on a flight to Italy, this last six months could far too easily be dismissed as an anomaly. Instead of appreciating the current situation as a confluence of failures across several different departments, it would go down instead as an example of the risks of employing an inflexible idealogue. Perhaps Sarri, it would be reasoned, just isn’t built for English football. Maybe his personal limitations have only created the perception that Chelsea’s recruitment strategy is anachronistic and lacking in proper direction.
That mustn’t be allowed to happen. Whatever the outcome of this situation, the resolution mustn’t be limited to another quick change of manager and a papering over of what, clearly, are some deep institutional cracks. Sarri may very well not be the right person for this particular job and his work at Napoli might have been so blinding as to obscure his limitations. If a change does have to happen, though, it’s possible to concede that ground, to acknowledge that this was a flawed appointment, but also to recognise that it has accentuated existing issues and shone a light on faulty internal mechanics.
Ultimately, if Chelsea are to recover ground that has been lost, this period of time must be instructive.