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If not Sarri then who?

If you listen to Chelsea fans and indeed the media, the question doesn’t seem to be so much if   Maurizio Sarri is leaving Chelsea, but...



If you listen to Chelsea fans and indeed the media, the question doesn’t seem to be so much if Maurizio Sarri is leaving Chelsea, but when?

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to assume he’s going to leave sometime during the week commencing the 25th February. And because we don’t know if the plan is to get a caretaker manager till the end of the season or appoint someone on a permanent basis, we’ll discuss both scenarios.

The Caretaker Manager

Chelsea ‘have form’ when it comes to this. Sacking their manager during the season, appointing someone till the end of it and then either sticking with them (Roberto Di Matteo, Avram Grant) or just saying ‘cheers, off you go’ (Guus Hiddink, Rafa Benitez) and appointing someone else.
The obvious place to start here would of course be with Gianfranco Zola, who is already at the club. A Chelsea legend as a player, a nice guy and someone who knows the players and how the club works. All well and good but there are two obvious flies in the ointment. The first is a fear that when wholesale change is needed in terms of tactics and team selection, he might just carry on doing what Sarri was doing, which is hardly the point. The second is that Zola’s managerial career has mostly been pretty ordinary up to now.
A third spell as caretaker manager for Guus Hiddink is unlikely. He’s currently managing the China U21s with a view to putting in a strong performance at the next Olympics and at 72, he’s probably a little bit over taking one of the most high-profile and high-pressure jobs in football when he doesn’t really need to.
John Terry, another Chelsea legend, would surely be way out of his depth. It’s all well and good being respected in the dressing room and adored by the fans but that’s not going to help you when you’re away at Liverpool in mid-April and desperate for a win. Chelsea probably know as much. Deep down, so does Terry. 
What about ‘Fireman Sam’? It may not be as silly as it sounds. A Top 4 finish from this position would be like gold dust and if you check out the Premier League Points Index you will see Chelsea are currently predicted to acquire 73 total points by the end of the season, and that tally may too low for a Top 4 finish.
Few are as versed at arriving mid-way through the season and getting instant results as Sam Allardyce. Ironically, the issue may be Allardyce himself who must understandably be sick and tired of rescuing teams and then not being given a chance to stay on.
The Permanent Manager
Given his famously high IQ, it would be an uncharacteristically stupid move for Frank Lampard to take the job if offered to him. Like Terry, he’s still learning his trade and is doing so at the right club, in the right division.
One of these days he’ll surely get the Chelsea job but to take it now, with half a season of managerial experience under his belt and working with players he didn’t sign would be a massive mistake and one that could compromise a future appointment, when he’s actually ready for it. It’s lose/lose all around.
Then there’s Brendan Rogers and this one is worth considering. Big club experience, check. Modern-day coaching methods, check. Recent success (yes, it’s not that hard to win when you’re managing Celtic but you can only beat the teams you’re up against), check. The Chelsea hierarchy won’t have forgotten how well-drilled that Liverpool team was when they came so close to winning the league and Rogers would surely jump at this sort of opportunity with Celtic unlikely to stand in his way.
Lastly, there is of course Zinedine Zidane who is many people’s favourite to take the job. As one of the greatest players ever to grace a football pitch he wouldn’t be wanting for respect and admiration among the players. And three Champions League titles in a row, an unprecedented feat, suggests he’s not too shabby at this management malarkey, either.

But it’s not just about results. Chelsea aren’t a Barcelona or a Manchester United in terms of being associated with free-flowing, pacy, attacking football but it would certainly be a nice change after the somewhat laboured and pragmatic approach of Antonio Conte and Sarri.
Crucially, Zidane is about the players rather than the system. He looks at what he’s got and bases the team around that rather than deciding on the system and then fitting everyone in around how he wants to play. Equally significant is the admiration that Eden Hazard has for ‘Zizou’. He’d probably sign a new contract on the spot if the Frenchman was appointed.
Perhaps most crucially of all, Zidane is unattached. He could arrive tomorrow without compensation talks, legal cases or anything else and be fully focused. He may just be the man for the job.

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