Maurizio Sarri’s fate as Chelsea’s head coach will in effect be determined over the remainder of this month as the Italian seeks to convince the club’s hierarchy that he can recover some poise and still deliver Champions League qualification for next season.
Sunday’s humiliating 6-0 thrashing at Manchester City, Chelsea’s worst defeat since 1991 and a loss which confirmed a drop from fourth to sixth place, has left Sarri clinging to his position only seven months into a three-year deal. The head coach will hope progress in the Europa League, starting with Thursday’s knockout tie at Malmö, earns him time, given the competition’s winners gain entry into next season’s Champions League.
Yet eliminating the side who finished third in the Swedish league last season would only marginally bolster his job prospects unless a team clearly struggling to come to terms with his tactical demands can improve their performances over a daunting run of domestic fixtures.
Chelsea face Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup, Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League before the month is out, games in which the board will expect to see reasons for optimism. Any decision over Sarri’s future would still be taken by Roman Abramovich, despite the fact the owner has not attended a game this season and now spends the vast majority of his time in Russia and Israel.