'F*** Sarri-ball', Europa League success, Kepa's insubordination - Sarri's highs and lows at Chelsea

By Sports Desk June 16, 2019

Maurizio Sarri has left Chelsea for Juventus after just one year in the Premier League and it is fair to say it was a turbulent spell.

With the fiery Italian in charge, things were never likely to be dull at Chelsea in the 2018-19 season.

Sarri will undoubtedly consider himself to have been a success given what he achieved and the constraints he was under in the transfer market, but there are plenty of fans who will not be upset to see the back of him.

As Sarri prepares to return to Italy, we look at the triumphant highs and disappointing lows of his solitary season in English football.

HIGHS

Europa League success

Given the infamy of the Europa League final in Baku from a logistical perspective, Chelsea's performance and emphatic 4-1 win over Arsenal were effectively a sideshow. But, if one ignores the ticketing farce, location and security concerns preventing Henrikh Mkhitaryan playing, Sarri came out of it very well by masterminding a fine display to win his first major trophy as a coach.

Top-three Premier League finish

Sarri inherited a squad with plenty of issues. Several players were approaching 30 or already there, the midfield options were lacking and his main striker was enduring a difficult run. Chelsea's recruitment in the last couple of years has left a lot of be desired, yet Sarri still managed to ensure the Blues secured a respectable third-place finish and Champions League qualification.

Ending City's unbeaten start

Manchester City did not lose any of their first 15 Premier League games in 2018-19, form that sparked talk of Pep Guardiola's team going the entire season unbeaten. Chelsea ended such suggestions in December, beating City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from N'Golo Kante and David Luiz, evidence that Sarri had the Blues mixing it with the best of them at times.

 

LOWS

Crushed by City

Things started to get ugly for Chelsea and Sarri after the turn of the year. He looked to be heading for the exit at the start of February when Chelsea were demolished 6-0 away to City. Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan and a Sergio Aguero brace had the hosts 4-0 up after 25 minutes and a recovery never arrived. It was third successive away league defeat, following a similarly embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth and a 2-0 loss at Arsenal.

"F*** Sarri-ball"

With the Blues having suffered those heavy defeats not long before, they lost 2-0 at home to Manchester United in the FA Cup on February 18. The much-lauded style of play brought to the club by Sarri became the target, as fans chanted "F*** Sarri-ball" during the match. It was surely a sign that the 60-year-old's days were numbered.

Kepa challenges authority

Chelsea's run to the EFL Cup final arguably helped keep Sarri in the job and their performance against City was certainly more spirited than the drubbing they received from them just two weeks earlier. However, the match was marred by Kepa Arrizabalaga refusing to be substituted in extra time after appearing to sustain an injury. Sarri played it down after losing on penalties, stating it all came from his misunderstanding of the situation. However, it became the focus at Chelsea for several weeks, particularly given the coach's initial explosive reaction on the touchline.

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