Chelsea Manager Maurizio Sarri Says 'I Don't Know What Sarri-Ball Is'

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21: Maurizio Sarri of Chelsea looks on during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 Second Leg match between Chelsea and Malmo FF at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has said he is unaware what Sarri-ball, the name associated with his specific brand of football, is.

The Blues manager has been under pressure following a string of poor results, including heavy losses away from home in the Premier League against Bournemouth and Manchester City, as well as elimination in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday at home to Manchester United.

In the latter contest, sections of the crowd made clear their displeasure with the style of play, as chants of "f--k Sarri-ball" could be heard. But speaking ahead of the team's Carabao Cup final showdown with City at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, the Italian coach said he's unsure what the name means.

"I don't know the meaning of Sarri-ball," he said. "As I said in England on the first day, I don't know what Sarri-ball is. I think it's from a journal, I think. In Italy, I have never heard it. I don't know."

The Blues boss has honed a tactical blueprint that has plenty of distinct tropes, and in his first season at the club, there have been mixed results.

Sarri was able to bring Jorginho from Napoli to Chelsea in the summer in what was deemed a huge boost for the club. The Italy international was a linchpin in the way Napoli operated under the coach, knitting play together from deep with his excellent passing range.

In addition, the Serie A side pressed with endeavour under Sarri and were able to move the ball quickly through the lines to slice opposition defences open. In the main, those attributes haven't been seen at Stamford Bridge, especially as of late.

Italian football journalist Adam Digby noted that this brand of football was always going to take time to implement:

Adam Digby @Adz77

Just explained #Sarriball & why it's struggling at #Chelsea to @SkySportsNews. Here's a thread from the day he was appointed in July where I pointed out every "flaw" people are complaining about today. Don't say you weren't warned! https://t.co/mH61ItN89c

Daniel Storey observed Chelsea's woes could soon increase:

Daniel Storey @danielstorey85

Chelsea have appointed a manager who needs a squad overhaul to make his system work (and never pretended otherwise) alienated their best young player and then received an extended transfer ban. Clever leadership.

Still, the stubbornness Sarri has shown in some aspects of his management have left Blues fans rightly frustrated.

The manager appears to be wedded to a 4-3-3 system regardless of the game situation or the opposition. That means the Blues are often one-dimensional in their attacking play—Eden Hazard aside—and substitutions have become predictable.

One common change has been withdrawing Ross Barkley for Mateo Kovacic in midfield, or vice versa:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Maurizio Sarri is a manager who knows what he likes and he really likes subbing Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley for one another. 🔄 https://t.co/K92wa9J4x9

While the best managers in the world have a style they adhere to, they also make tweaks to their setup when the time is right. Sarri hasn't shown that flexibility in his managerial career.

It will be intriguing to see whether he gets time to do that at Chelsea, as he's a man under major pressure heading into the Carabao Cup final. According to Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph, the Blues are considering England assistant manager Steve Holland as a possible temporary successor if Sarri is sacked next week.