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The charge sheet against Maurizio Sarri: Five reasons Chelsea fans feel relationship may be broken beyond repair

Alex Finnis
Maurizio Sarri looks to the ground during Chelsea's 2-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park - Offside

The mood among most Chelsea supporters these days - even those who religiously follow their team up and down the country, and as far afield as Kiev - is one of depressed apathy. Kiev is a long way to go for something you're struggling to care about, but they do it anyway, such is the life of a football fan.

It's painfully clear the relationship between manager Maurizio Sarri and the punters in the stands isn't exactly rosy. The now weekly chants of "f*** Sarri-ball" tell you as much, in the plainest of English. And yet the majority of fans would tell you it's not necessarily beyond repair.

The problem is, Sarri appears to either be incapable of or unwilling to make any of the changes that could fix it. His grip on the team is about as secure as a long trail of ash drooping perilously from the end of one of his favoured cigarettes, and with Roman Abramovich's visa situation and the prospect of a two-window transfer ban hanging over the club, there is little to feel positive about at Chelsea right now.

Here are the five key gripes Chelsea fans have with their man in the dugout.

He's turning Chelsea into Arsenal

For a Chelsea supporter, there's only one thing which could be worse than being Arsenal, and that's being Tottenham. Chelsea's success over the last 15 years has largely been built on a style of powerful football - a team with a strong core of leaders who could be devastating on the counter-attack. The likes of Didier Drogba and John Terry would bully opponents, and even when they wound up on the losing side it was rarely embarrassing.

Under Sarri, that style has switched to a possession-based, sideways-pass-happy method fans feel is reminiscent of Arsenal at their worst. A sort of budget version of tiki-taka which feels distinctly un-Chelsea.

Sarri walked down the tunnel without shaking hands with his friend Pep Guardiola after Chelsea's 6-0 demolition by Manchester City Credit: Getty Images

Sarri's philosophy, which worked to devastating effect in Naples, has not converted successfully to the Premier League, and the result is a side which is consistently frustrating to watch and often downright boring.

This season has brought a humiliating 6-0 defeat to Manchester City and an ugly 4-0 loss to Bournemouth, as well as costly slip-ups against Wolves and Leicester and a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup which pushed supporters over the edge. Losing is allowed - it's a part of football even the most privileged of fanbases must accept - but it's the manner of these defeats which has been difficult to stomach.

Sarri has turned a team which won the Premier League less than two years ago into one that looks lost and spineless. The players absolutely must shoulder some of the blame - and there are no Terrys, Drogbas or Frank Lampards to lead from the field at Stamford Bridge anymore - but the buck still stops with the manager.

A lack of ability to adjust

The biggest indictment of Sarri's time in west London has been his unwillingness to adapt his philosophy or adjust mid-game when things aren't going Chelsea's way. 

This changed a little after the 6-0 defeat in Manchester - the wake-up call to end all wake-up calls - but it shouldn't take 30 games to realise swapping Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic on 67 minutes every week isn't making an ounce of positive impact.

While Sarri now doesn't flat out refuse to take off Jorginho when the Italian 'regista' is ineffective or to bring on a second striker, the damning fact remains that Chelsea have come from behind to win just once all season.

'Sarri-ball' looked wonderful at Napoli - as a vocal faction of fans with Twitter handles like @Hazardissimo10 will aggressively remind you - but the Premier League and Serie A are very different beasts. Pep Guardiola adjusted his methods after initially struggling a little when he first came to England, and Sarri must heed the actions of his good friend to stand any chance of ending the season without a P45 on his desk. His current inability to do so makes you wonder whether he's simply out of his depth.

He doesn't seem to understand his players

Too often after Chelsea suffer yet another damaging defeat, Sarri complains to the media that he "doesn't know what happened", frequently citing his squad's mental state. He has a point - this is a team in desperate need of leadership and spirit on the pitch - but that doesn't change the fact that understanding his players and the way they think is a very significant part of a manager's job.

Sarri is very distant from his squad - you rarely see him embrace or share a moment of connection with one of his players. Compare that with Jose Mourinho and the relationship he shared with the team during his first stint at the club, or Robrto Di Matteo on the run to Champions League glory in Munich. Compare it to Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and Guardiola at City, who have all evidently bonded with their dressing rooms.

Chelsea don't fight for Sarri on the pitch, which looks bad on the players, but is ultimately a failing of the manager. It's a problem it may already be too late to fix.

Callum Hudson-Odoi has been impressive, but is yet to be rewarded with a Premier League start Credit: Getty Images

No investment in the talented youth

There's a feeling among the Chelsea masses that the impending transfer ban may not be the worst thing in the world, as it might force the club to finally show some genuine commitment to its outstanding academy. Since taking over in the summer, though, Sarri has displayed zero desire to give any of the club's emerging stars significant playing time.

Callum Hudson-Odoi has earned himself a place in Gareth Southgate's England squad with his brief but promising flashes this season, and yet apparently hasn't done enough to start a single Premier League game. This would be more understandable if Pedro and Willian weren't both into their 30s and clearly past their best. Hudson-Odoi is understandably frustrated, and Chelsea now risk losing a potential star player to Bayern Munich.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has struggled to get on the pitch even when not battling a troublesome back injury, Andreas Christensen has been sidelined in favour of David Luiz, and Ethan Ampadu didn't even get a place on the bench in Kiev last week despite travelling to Ukraine and Chelsea holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg. All four are good enough to be involved regularly, and won't improve without time on the pitch. Many fans feel someone like a Steve Holland or a Jody Morris, who know the club and would buy into a youthful rebuild, would be far better options than Sarri despite a lack of managerial pedigree.

Zero connection with the fans

When it comes to football, it doesn't take long to fall in love. When Antonio Conte dived into the crowd following Diego Costa's late winner against West Ham, his first game as Chelsea boss, fans knew they had a good one. His passion on the sideline and outward acknowledgement of the support quickly won them over, and meant they backed him vocally throughout a tough second season at the Bridge. The vast majority were gutted to see him go, even if it was painfully apparent his relationship with the club's top brass had been fractured beyond repair.

Antonio Conte famously dived into the crowd in his first ever game as Chelsea manager Credit: Action Images

The fans share none of that connection with Sarri, who has never made an effort to endear himself to or forge a relationship with those in the stands. That may not be part of the job description, but if he had tried perhaps they would be more forgiving, more willing to give him the time he needs. If Sarri and Chelsea do break up, the split won't sting even a little among the west London faithful.

Can Sarri salvage it?

If Sarri is at Chelsea next season, it either means he's won the Europa League, secured a place in the top four, or Chelsea have drastically relaxed the cut-throat approach which has been a consistent factor in the Abramovich era.

His tenure so far reflects badly on those who make the decisions at Stamford Bridge. Hiring a manager who has never won a trophy at a club obsessed with silverware always felt like a risk, and right now it looks as if Chelsea may have vastly mis-evaluated his ability to take the next step.

However, it's also true that a single season is far from enough time to let a manager put his stamp on a team - particularly a manager with such a defined philosophy which takes certain types of players to implement successfully.

For this reason the impending transfer ban works against Sarri, but whatever happens they could be in for a few quiet years on the trophy front, especially if Eden Hazard leaves as expected.

It's not really in Chelsea's philosophy to rebuild, but a change in approach may be what the club needs. Most fans you ask would take a few years of dust accumulating in the trophy cabinet if it meant emerging with a fresh team built around home-grown talent.