Consistency is all people ask for. If the referee whistles for the slightest of contacts as fouls, then whistle for both teams. If a player finds some good form, score against every team, not just the bad ones. And if a manager chastises his players for something, give equal criticism to every player who commits the same mistake.
Consistency is a desirable trait. For Maurizio Sarri though, his lack of consistency in the past two weeks could save him his job.
For months, Chelsea fans have screamed for Sarri’s head, mocked him with chants from the stands, and pushed for him to get the sack mainly due to his predictability and flat, lifeless performances from the squad.
A 6-0 thrashing against Manchester City. A collapse at Bournemouth resulting in 4 goals conceded in the second half. And, a lackluster 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park are just some of the uninspiring results that enraged supporters.
All of these matches saw Gonzalo Higuain as a number 9 flanked by Pedro on the right and either Ross Barkley or Mateo Kovacic in midfield supporting the manager’s beloved Jorginho. Every one of these players have been jeered by fans either in person or on social media for their sub-par displays.
By maintaining roughly the same XI, Sarri appeared stubborn, unwilling to change his system and reticent to change the players involved, simply blaming them for not understanding his system well enough instead of accepting onus and giving others a chance to prove themselves and earn a starting role.
But then something happened against Brighton recently. Sarri finally made changes.
He started Callum Hudson Odoi up front with Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud. The youngster set up a goal and both the World Cup semifinalist and World Cup winner scored. Ruben Loftus Cheek also started and made his mark on the game from the midfield.
Throughout most of the season, this rotation would’ve been a one off for Sarri and a subsequent return of the rested players. Surprisingly that didn’t happen this time.
The Italian started both Loftus Cheek and Hudson Odoi again against West Ham the following week, only this time with Higuain as the number 9. Chelsea won a second consecutive Premier League game and both youngsters and the team in general performed well.
As the Liverpool match approached, it seemed as though Sarri would continue this new XI as neither young player started Thursday in the Europa League. Sarri did in fact start both and used Hazard as a false 9, a role the talisman dreads.
Chelsea did not score nor was the formation the reason for losing 2-0 at Anfield, but Sarri deserves credit. A man no one thought would ever swallow his pride has not only seen the light and begun using his best left sided, box to box midfielder, Loftus Cheek, and only wide forward who gets behind defenders, Hudson Odoi, Sarri has silences his critics by rotating for three games straight the striker in an attempt to find the best player suited for what is clearly his best attacking midfield and front line.
It may not have succeeded as swimmingly as he or the Chelsea fans would have hoped, but it was the exact right move. Has Giroud proven he deserves to start week in week out? No.
Has Higuain shown he’s the best number 9 in the squad? Also no. Does Hazard usually play well as a false 9? No.
The fact that Sarri is searching to find the best fit is significant progress and welcomed change to his earlier season bullheadedness.
Consistency for most managers is a good thing, but over reliance on one formation or player causes problems and leads to predictability. That was Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea early this year which caused the consternation of fans and appeals for his sacking. His consistency was a negative.
In the past few matches, the former Napoli boss has shown he’s willing to try something different, to rotate and search for a best XI. It may not work every game, but Chelsea fans should appreciate him putting aside his pride, or coming to his senses, whichever it may be.
Sarri’s lack of consistency and adaptation of late means he should keep his job after this year. Will he? It’s hard to tell. Will Chelsea fans want him? It seems unlikely as Loftus Cheek and Hudson Odoi starting has only put the fans’ ire on hold. It should however quash their outrage and get them to rally them behind the manager.
Sarri deserves the support of the fans and the players right now. Sarri’s recent consistent inconsistency is just what he and Chelsea need.