Paul Merson believes Chelsea could live to regret their decision to let Maurizio Sarri leave for Juventus.
The Italian guided the London club to a third-place finish in the Premier League in his only season in charge, as well as winning the Europa League title and reaching the League Cup final.
And although Merson admitted the football played under Sarri wasn’t great at times, he did hint that Chelsea could look back on their decision to allow the Italian to leave as a mistake, given his success.
“The football hasn’t been great under Sarri,” Merson said. “Season wise though, it’s not been bad. I hope we don’t look back next season and think, cor, he was good – they only finished behind Liverpool and Manchester City.
“To come third and winning a European final – it’s the tournament they were in too, they didn’t drop out of the Champions League – could they have done much more?
“The pressure was: he didn’t really play (Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi), was predictable with Jorginho, and the football at Stamford Bridge wasn’t great, it started off entertaining and then fizzled out. It was a catalogue of things in the end. But you don’t want to be sitting there asking why they let him go next season.”
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Frank Lampard is being heavily linked with a move to replace Sarri in the Chelsea dugout after guiding Derby County to the Championship play-off final during his first season in management.
Merson has been impressed with the job Lampard has done since taking over at the Rams and believes Chelsea’s transfer ban could actually help their record goalscorer, buying much more patience with the club’s hierarchy than usual.
“He’s done a bit of an apprenticeship at Derby. They did great to get into the Championship play-off final,” Merson told Sky Sports.
“But it’s not like you’re bringing in a manager who’s going to be dealing with £70, 80, 90m transfer deals with the pressure on him to bring in players, especially when you haven’t been in that situation before and you’re talking about inexperience.
“(Ole Gunnar) Solskjaer – he’s been manager of Molde, didn’t do great at Cardiff and he’s got to be bringing in players of that level. But with Frank, he comes in and the team’s there, the fans will be patient with him because he’s a legend. I think he ticks the boxes.
“If he comes in too, Jody Morris has already been at the club, he knows the kids who are coming through. There are a lot more of those kids at Chelsea and it is more of a chance to give them a chance instead of bringing players in and the crowd asking what they brought him in for.”
Sarri’s short Chelsea career: Six key things to know…
- Sarri replaced Antonio Conte in the summer of 2018.
- He was the first manager to go unbeaten in his first 12 Premier League games.
- Despite some tough runs, Sarri guided Chelsea to third in the table.
- He also secured a Europa League title and reached the League Cup final.
- His ‘Sarri-ball’ style often came under fire from sections of Chelsea’s support.
- The 60-year-old has now left to take over Italian champions Juventus.