Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri believes the label given to his playing style is meaningless.
‘Sarriball’ is coming in for increasingly harsh reviews in west London, with some reports suggesting the former Napoli boss’ job is on the line ahead of Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Manchester City – a side Chelsea lost 6-0 to in the Premier League this month.
From persistently selecting Jorginho at the base of his midfield and deploying N’Golo Kante further forward, to showing huge resistance to any deviation from his preferred starting line-up, Sarri’s methods have been railed against by a vocal and growing minority of the Blues fanbase.
That these tactics have a snappy shorthand does not appear to be overly helpful – as demonstrated by the “F*** Sarriball” chants during Monday’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester United at Stamford Bridge – but the 60-year-old Italian insists his reign will stand or fall by results, not style.
“I don’t know the meaning of Sarriball,” he said, “As I said in England on the first day, I don’t know what Sarriball is.
“I think it’s from a journal. In Italy, I think. I have never heard it.
“I don’t know [if it would be easier without the label]. I think that, in the end, the most important things are the results. In my job, I need the result. Nothing else.”
The cup final this Sunday! pic.twitter.com/xesXQLWGH0
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 22, 2019
Placing such a premium on results might be considered unwise as Sarri prepares to face a City side in rampant mood of late.
Pep Guardiola endured similar struggles as he sought to impose his methods at the Etihad Stadium in 2016-17 but the presence of old Barcelona allies Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain on the City board meant his position was seldom called into question.
Asked why attitudes towards their respective reigns have contrasted so much, Sarri replied: “Because he was lucky. I don’t know – you have to ask the club. You have to ask both, Manchester City and Chelsea.
“But I don’t know if I am under pressure from my club or from you [journalists]. I don’t know at the moment.
“I think that, if you choose Guardiola, you have to wait because the club knows very well that Guardiola needs time. It’s not really very easy for an English team to play that kind of football, so it’s normal.”
Chelsea’s preparations for the Wembley showpiece are unlikely to be exhaustive, despite the high stakes.
Sarri identified a lack of confidence among his players during the lacklustre opening to Thursday’s 3-0 Europa League win over Malmo and wants to foster a freer mentality in their approach.
“In this match, for 30 minutes, I saw a team very worried. Without confidence,” he added.
“So, I don’t want to press them. I want their minds really very free. We will prepare the match only on Saturday, I think.
“I didn’t like our minds in the first 30 minutes. I want to see something more free. So, we will prepare the match in 60 minutes, no more.”
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