Chelsea are in the throes of a crisis.
A defeat to Manchester City is not normally something to panic about, particularly not this Manchester City team, so irrepressible and effervescent under Pep Guardiola.
But Chelsea were taken to bits on Sunday, battered 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium in a game when Sergio Aguero also missed a sitter and hit the crossbar. Had it been 8-0, perhaps Maurizio Sarri would no longer be in a job.
As it is, he stormed down the tunnel on the final whistle, cigarette butt between his teeth, refusing to shake the hand of Pep Guardiola. Afterwards, he aimed a pointed jibe at owner Roman Abramovich, claiming that it will be nice to see him, as he never hears from him.
“If the president calls, I’ll be happy, seeing as I never hear from him,” he said, per Sky Sports. “To be honest, I don’t know what to expect.”
Sarri has been in charge for less than a season but already it appears that the experiment has failed. Sarri refuses to adapt, refuses to change his tactics. Sarri-ball was much heralded at the start of the season as the key to unlocking the top four, to transforming Chelsea back into title challengers. Instead, it has been a quagmire of boring football, poor results and a slide down the table.
The Blues are now sixth, by virtue of goal difference after their monumental defeat on Sunday. They are only a point behind Manchester United but they are 10 off third-placed Tottenham and 15 off the top.
If a change is to be made, if Abramovich is to send out an SOS to managers in a bid to rescue Chelsea’s season and secure qualification for the Champions League, there is only one man he can call: Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese is out of work again, of course, after leaving United and it must be mentioned that the Red Devils are in better shape without him. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has yet to lose in the dugout and the mood at Old Trafford has been lightened, the curtains were thrown back and light let in.
Yet what Solskjaer has done at United – taken a club he knows inside out back to their roots – is exactly what Mourinho could do at Chelsea.
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He has been there before and he has done it all. He won three Premier League titles across two spells at the club, the FA Cup and three League Cups. Sarri has the chance to add his own League Cup medal to the Chelsea winners’ cabinet but that does not appear very likely, as the Blues again face Manchester City in the final.
Mourinho has the knowledge, the gusto and surely the motivation to come in and transform this Chelsea team.
They have a talented striker in Gonzalo Higuain again, who is akin to the likes of Didier Drogba and Diego Costa, both of whom were essential to previous Mourinho sides at Chelsea, and Eden Hazard is still around.
Of course, Mourinho left the club under a cloud. The incident with the physio, Eva Carneiro, was regrettable and has tarnished the Portuguese’s reputation, perhaps indefinitely.
But few can argue with his results. This is not to say that he would necessarily be a caretaker but the carrot of besting United, the latest club to show him the door, should be all the motivation Mourinho needs.
There were some strange decisions made towards the end of his reign and his falling out with Paul Pogba is another black mark against his name.
At the end of the day, however, Chelsea are unlikely to care.
They have had a massive turnover of managers in recent years and they have continued to win. Mourinho, love him or loathe him, has been central to that.
Parachuting him in for a rescue job may not exactly be the sort of welcome Mourinho would want – he is not Sam Allardyce, routinely saving teams from relegation.
But taking Chelsea above United, into the Champions League, and restoring his reputation at a club where he was once adored is a hell of a sales pitch.
Abramovich should, at the very least, ask the question.
He knows Mourinho well, and their working relationship has paid handsome dividends in the past.
If Sarri goes, we should see the third coming of one of the greatest and most controversial managers of all time.
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