MAURIZIO Sarri faces another angry vote of no confidence from frustrated Chelsea fans if the under-fire Italian fails to spark his spluttering side in Wednesday’s clash against Brighton.
Sarri was subjected to vitriolic abuse from Chelsea supporters at Cardiff on Sunday in response to a painful performance that was just six minutes away from serving as the nadir of a miserable first season for the Blues boss.
Trailing 1-0 in the second half after being out-fought by the Premier League relegation candidates, Chelsea were on the rack and chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “we want Sarri out” echoed out from the away end.
Chelsea’s under-performing stars eventually raised themselves for just long enough to give Sarri a modicum of breathing space with two late goals to steal a sorely-needed 2-1 win.
That may have kept alive their hopes of a top four finish, but it did little to quell the feeling that Sarri is on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge.
Since an impressive 2-0 win over Tottenham raised hopes that Sarri could avoid the sack, his troubled team have reverted to lacklustre type.
Reflecting the pattern of a hugely frustrating season, Chelsea are once again churning out turgid performances that feature large spells where they dominate possession without showing any cutting edge.
In the league games since they beat Tottenham, Sarri’s side needed an inspired display from goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to narrowly beat lowly Fulham, while it took a last-minute equaliser from Eden Hazard to rescue a home draw against Wolves.
A woeful 2-0 loss at Everton was following by an even more limp effort at Cardiff, which looked certain to end in an embarrassing defeat before Cesar Azpilicueta’s clearly offside equaliser triggered their late fightback.
A repeat of that woeful display against struggling Brighton is certain to bring more opprobrium for Sarri, who has already suffered several nights on the boos at the Bridge this season.
Sarri has not helped himself after aiming a subtle dig at Chelsea’s protesting fans when he said after he Cardiff escape that they would have been better waiting to see the final score before turning on him.
It was not the first self-inflicted wound for Sarri since his arrival from Napoli in July.
Feted for his entertaining ‘Sarri-ball’ style in Italy, the 60-year-old has failed to win over either his players or fans at Chelsea.
His refusal to ditch Jorginho and return N’Golo Kante to his preferred midfield holding role was the first faux-pas, while his occasional use of Eden Hazard as a centre forward frustrated the Belgian winger.
Signing his former Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain to pep up his misfiring attack has been another flop, with the Argentine managing only three goals in 11 appearances.
On Sunday, he bizarrely started with Hazard, Kante and in-form England winger Callum Hudson-Odoi on the bench.
All three must feature against Brighton if Sarri wants to avoid the already strained atmosphere in the stands turning even more toxic.
Sarri’s sixth placed side have no margin for error as they try to qualify for the Champions League.
With seven games left, they trail fourth placed Tottenham by one point and Chelsea captain Azpilicueta urged his teammates to lift the mutinous mood against Brighton.
“We have to look at ourselves, and if we want to achieve our targets we have to improve,” he said.
“On Wednesday from the first minute, we have to create a good atmosphere on the pitch.
“I know the fans will be behind us, but we have to give them what they want – fighting spirit, great football, and scoring goals.
“That’s what we both want and we have to pull in the same direction.” – AFP
Chelsea v Brighton
Tottenham v Palace
Man City v Cardiff