A month to save Chelsea’s season

Has Sarri found the winning formula?

As a Chelsea fan, the last few years seem to have been peppered with months that would determine either the club’s season, a manager’s future or more often than not – both. March 2019 is yet another one.

In a season that started off so promising, with talk of a new Sarri era that would rival or even eclipse the best of Jose and Conte, it veered off into one that would possibly be worse than the darkest months under those two. Surprisingly though there are signs (small but unmistakably there) that the Italian can turn it around. The next 4 weeks or so, will prove if they are a false dawn or actually something to build upon.

Euro Millions

The eyes of the rest of the footballing world are very much on events in the Champions league, in particular the triple England Germany head-to-head. A competition of course, that Man City are favourites to win. That shows the distance Chelsea have fallen in such a short time. Nevertheless, Chelsea now find themselves in the same position in the continent’s second cup competition. With a Champions League place courtesy of the league looking a tougher proposition than it did not that long ago, the Europa is probably Chelsea’s best path to the Champions League riches. Whether they will be able to spend those riches is of course up in the air at the moment with the transfer ban looming.

Their opponents in the last 16 are Dynamo Kiev, a tie where the travel probably presents the trickiest aspect of the two legs. The Ukraine side will be no pushovers, having topped the group that also included Arsenal’s opponents Rennes, but in a draw where there was no seeding, it could have been a lot worse. The Stamford Bridge tie is on the 7th March, the reverse a week later. Should those go the way of expectations, it will be early April before Chelsea venture into Europe again. By which time, the EPL picture will be clearer.

Push for Fourth

Higuain – time to shine

Despite the wheels appearing to have fallen off Chelsea’s bid for the top four and the unlikely resurrection at Manchester United, it is still very much within Chelsea’s grasp. The remaining games fall neatly into two categories. Those that they really should be winning, and those that, judging by all evidence, they probably won’t. In order to claim that last remaining Champions League spot, they have to ensure there are no slip ups and they do take all three points from those games that reside in the first of those groups. That includes every league game in March.

The recent  turnaround, evident in the contrasting Manchester City games, needs to be built upon, and with these fixtures, anything less than 13 points would make the task a whole lot trickier, and could see Sarri going to Old Trafford at the end of April needing a win.

• Fulham away
•  Wolves home
•  Everton away
•  Cardiff away
•  West Ham home

With that visit to Manchester in April, along with one to Anfield earlier that month, it needs to be a case of making hay, even if the sun is only just threatening to shine.

The fact we are talking about still finishing in the top four, along with a possible European trophy, does put into perspective some of the negative talk in, around and aimed at Stamford Bridge. The rumoured loss of the changing room appears to have been overstated, and Sarri was quick to try and quash any further disharmony in the backlash from the Kepa incident at Wembley. However, it is worrying that having seeming to have found his Premiership legs remarkably easily, something did go wrong. Add to that that if recent history is to be repeated – and I am not saying that that in itself is a good thing – but if it is to be repeated, then new managers at the Bridge tend to do their best work early on. Maybe Sarri is repeating history after all, and is merely doing it on a lot quicker time scale than his predecessors.

At the moment, there are a lot of things in the air. There are too many questions still to be resolved. Come the end of March, the majority of those will have been answered, one way or the other. For Sarri and every Chelsea fan, we can only hope that they are answered in such a way that means we enter April and then May on the brink of yet another defining month.