It was “like watching the old Manchester United teams”, according to Phil Neville, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s simple but effective strategy was enough to undo the mythical ‘Sarri-ball’ in just 45 minutes of football.
Meanwhile, the Independent are among the sources stating Chelsea players are confused by Maurizio Sarri’s overload of tactical instructions as they were dumped out of the competition they won just nine months earlier under Antonio Conte – another manager they seemed to stop playing for.
Both top coaches with very different but effective philosophies, and both – most likely at this point – set to be sacked just months apart from each other at Chelsea, who just don’t seem to know what they want.
MORE: Ranking Chelsea’s best managers under Abramovich by win % – Maurizio Sarri makes top five, but there’s a surprise winner
A look at last night’s opponents Man Utd might be a decent starting point for them, with Solskjaer not exactly arriving at Old Trafford as a big name with any particular philosophy. Ole-ball, if there is such a thing, is simply a continuation of the DNA set by United in the glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson: committed workers all over the pitch, quick counter-attacks, playing with belief and conviction in every position.
It’s been an extremely effective tonic to the restrictive tactics of Jose Mourinho, who just couldn’t get going at MUFC despite once being such a hero at Chelsea.
With United embracing their past in a bid to build a brighter future, might Chelsea also take a look at what once made them great instead of chopping and changing from one approach to another year on year?
Chelsea fans – if you could go back and stop Abramovich sacking ONE manager, which would you choose?
— Mark Brus (@mbrus88) February 19, 2019
After all, it’s not just at United where this has worked wonders – Real Madrid went through similar under Zinedine Zidane, a former player without any experience going into the job, who simply spoke to that group of players and inspired them to simply be the best versions of themselves, with no reinventing of the wheel required.
In these strange times in modern football, we so often hear about how hard it is for managers to really build football clubs like they used to, due to the lack of time and patience awarded them. That’s not completely true, of course, as Sarri took some time before his philosophy bore fruit at Napoli – a club without the same kind of pressure to simply win at all costs like at Chelsea or Real Madrid.
Perhaps the truth is there are two distinct games going on at once now in terms of football management – the tactical visionaries, the Sarris, the Pochettinos and the Klopps who can build something over a longer period at clubs with lower budgets and expectations, bringing in and developing the players of their choosing. And at the other end – the inspirational man-manager in the Zidane or Solskjaer mould who can come in and instantly work with whatever group of superstars happens to be at their club at any given time, with a connection to that club a welcome bonus.
In which case, step forward Frank Lampard or John Terry? The Telegraph have already reported that the former would find it hard to turn down the job at his old club, where he is of course much loved as one of their greatest heroes of all time.
While Terry might still be a bit of a gamble at this stage due to his lack of experience, Lampard has done fine work in his first season in management at Derby County, so would not just be an entirely romantic appointment. But even if Chelsea were to act on such a basis, would that really be so bad?
Clearly, neither Sarri nor Conte have appealed to this group of players, so what will? Perhaps they just need some of those old characters back in the dressing room to remind them of the high standards set during the club’s most successful period in its history.
It may sound crazy, but Lampard as manager and someone like Terry or Didier Drogba as assistant could be just what CFC are crying out for in their bid to repeat the remarkable Solskjaer effect at Old Trafford.
Under Roman Abramovich, they’re never going to have the patience to wait two or three years for Sarri to put his stamp on the side. Even if it could be argued that they should stick with a more long-term plan and potentially reinvent themselves as a stylish possession-based side, perhaps it’s also okay to do what United have done and embrace their history a bit more? Lampard and Terry played under a number of different managers at Chelsea and succeeded under all of them, with the common theme being their presence and winning mentality that for so long made the club one of the most reliable big-game performers, even if they weren’t winning the title every season.
Even Roberto Di Matteo channelled that win-at-all-costs, us-against-the-world attitude to guide the club to the Champions League in 2012. Some think Terry was the real mastermind behind that run, with John Obi Mikel even recently saying: ‘The manager would speak and then leave it to JT to carry on. He smashes the whole place up and then we go back out and get the win. What he said, we followed. What he did, we followed. We looked at him for a reaction and we followed. No matter what manager came in, you had to know the figurehead of the club was John Terry.’
If there is such thing as a club having its own DNA – Chelsea’s may be less glamorous than Man Utd’s, but it’s pointless fighting it. It’s time for them to reconnect with what made them great and become the team everyone loves to hate again.