What is going wrong at Chelsea? What next for Sarri?

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Chelsea’s 6-0 hammering at Manchester City on Sunday was their heaviest defeat in the Premier League era.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Just six months into his time in charge at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is under severe pressure and many are calling for the Italian coach to be fired as his famed “Sarri-ball” has failed to catch on so far in his first season in England.

Despite all of their issues Chelsea remain just one point off the top four, but Sarri knows the next few weeks are pivotal if he’s going to be given time to make this a success.

Do Chelsea fire yet another manager during the season to spark their squad into life? Does Sarri need to show more tactical flexibility?

Below we take a look at the key factors behind Chelsea’s slump in recent months and how Sarri can turn things around.


Jorginho overpowered, Kante out of position
This is the key problem for Chelsea. Jorginho has been found out in the Premier League, badly. His range of passing is superb, but the best teams can shut him down easily if they press him high. Jorginho’s ability as a deep-lying playmaker is key to Sarri-ball working and the fact he hasn’t got N'Golo Kante alongside him to protect him is another reason why Chelsea are so easy to break down right now. In their last three away games (all defeats) they’ve now conceded 12 goals and scored zero. Kante is the player who is often making runs into the box and it makes no sense to turn the greatest defensive midfielder on the planet into an attacking midfielder. Sarri needs to take Jorginho out of the line of fire, put Kante back in holding midfield and try to shield his porous defense. He isn’t going to do this. But he should.


Eden Hazard isn’t bothered
With his future at Chelsea still in doubt, it is quite clear Eden Hazard isn’t the leader this team in a rut needs. He tried his best away at Man City, but failed to help out Marcos Alonso on the first goal and is not known for digging deep and doing defensive work at the best of times. Hazard’s mind seems like it is somewhere else and that’s a real shame. At times this season he has been unstoppable. But in other spells he has been unspectacular. Chelsea need Hazard to make up his mind on his future, and fast, because he just isn’t focused. Without him in top form they will not finish in the top four.


Replace Alonso, Luiz now
In recent weeks the duo of Marcos Alonso and David Luiz have put in some horrendous displays. But they still start every game. That can’t happen. Emerson Palmeri should now play over Alonso, while Andreas Christensen or Gary Cahill should be given the chance to replace Luiz. Both Alonso and Luiz love to attack, score goals and deep down believe they should be strikers. First and foremost they need to defend and they just aren’t doing that like they did in Conte’s first season in charge. The hammering at Man City has to be the final straw for Luiz and Alonso under Sarri and if this doesn’t force him to hand chances to Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu, what will?


Further backing for Maurizio Sarri needed
It is clear that Chelsea’s model of hiring and firing managers has worked over the past decade. The trophy cabinet says so. But the one constant throughout all of the sackings was that a squad of elite, opinionated players remained. It often came down to this: if the players wanted to player for the manager they would. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t. As we saw with the core of this squad, they threw in the towel for Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte once they were bored of their defensive tactics. Conte said while he was still at Chelsea that this squad needed a huge overhaul and that is crystal clear. He was spot on. This isn’t a Chelsea squad with Drogba, Lampard and Terry, characters who can keep the DNA of the side and win trophies no matter who is in charge.

Conte’s achievement of winning the PL and the FA Cup over his two campaigns in charge is looking better by the day. If Chelsea truly want to usher in Sarri-Ball they must give their manager the players he needs to suit his style. Christian Pulisic might be able do that, but Sarri’s other key additions Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho seem unable to cope with the demands of the Premier League. A huge clearout is needed. Not just shipping out Alvaro Morata on loan and bringing in Higuain on loan. 10-12 players need to leave this summer if Sarri remains in charge.

The vast majority of this squad isn’t capable of playing the way he wants, and that’s something which will not change overnight. Sarri said he will happily chat with Roman Abramovich in the coming days, but admitted that he doesn’t really speak to him. Is that an admission that he wants to clear up the big issue here: how much do Chelsea really want Sarri to remain in charge? Right now both Sarri and the club seem ambivalent about seeing this out.

Higuain, Hazard too much for Huddersfield (video)

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  • Higuain scores his 1st two Chelsea goals
  • Hazard also scores twice
  • Luiz adds deflected marker

Whatever Maurizio Sarri said after Chelsea’s beatdown by Bournemouth, it was the tonic.

Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard both bagged braces as Chelsea hammered Huddersfield Town 5-0 on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea is likely to stay the weekend in fourth with 50 points (unless Arsenal beats Man City by five or more goals on Sunday).

Huddersfield Town is 12 points off safety.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams tempted the goal early, with Ross Barkley just missing his target with a spinning effort and Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy snapping a shot wide himself.

Higuain put Chelsea ahead from a terrific pass from N'Golo Kante, and the finish was very much as advertised, with touch and power to the short side of Jonas Lossl.

Hazard then took advantage of a chance from the spot produced by a tripping Cesar Azpilicueta and his mark Elias Kachunga. He finished it, then was upset not to win another chance himself in stoppage time.

Town was very unfortunate in the 55th minute, when Andreas Christensen stepped on Kachunga in the box but was not whistled for a penalty.

Hazard turned his mark inside out in the 64th minute, but no one was at the back post for his dangerous cross through the six.

So he did it himself; Hazard ran onto an incisive Barkley pass and broke Lossl’s ankles before slotting inside the near post.

Kante then set up Higuain again, a deflected strike which looked pretty after zipping into the upper 90.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Willian scores 2, Higuain starts as Chelsea tops Sheffield Wednesday

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Willian scored twice and Callum Hudson-Odoi also scored as Chelsea beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 on Sunday to advance to the FA Cup Round of 16.

The early stages of the match included two awarded penalties, though only one would make it to the spot thanks to Video Assistant Referee.

[ MORE: Giovinco leaving TFC? ]

Joey Pelupessy kicked Ethan Ampadu‘s back leg and was awarded a penalty by Andre Marriner, but VAR reversed the decision.

Less than three minutes later, Sam Hutchinson took down Cesar Azpilicueta in the box with a clumsy tackle, and Willian had no problem with his effort to make it 1-0.

Hudson-Odoi made it 2-0 when he coolly collected an Andreas Christensen pass and cut inside to double the advantage.

Then Willian made it pretty with his second, taking a flick from Olivier Giroud and curling a vicious strike off the far post and into the goal.

Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

Five things we learned from midweek PL

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Before we start with the specifics, we learned that the midweek games were crazy in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

For the first matchday since 2010 all 20 teams scored, as there were upsets, goals galore, huge mistakes and plenty of talking points.

Lets dig in on five specific things we learned from what occurred over the past 48 hours.


1. Gutsy Liverpool prove the strength of their squad
Trailing at Burnley in the second half, this was a huge test of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool. They passed with flying colors. Klopp left Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino out of his starting lineup and it looked like they could pay the price. But Salah and Firmino came on in the second half after James Milner pulled Liverpool level and the rest is history. Alisson made a fine save late on to keep the score at 2-1 and Xherdan Shaqiri finished plucky Burnley off. Klopp hit out at Burnley’s rough tactics after the game as Joe Gomez suffered a lower leg fracture in the first half, and it was a gruelling test to win at Burnley even if the Clarets are nowhere near the team they were last season. Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno, Naby Keita and others stepped up to help Liverpool get the job done as they sit two points behind leaders Manchester City heading into the busy festive period. Liverpool’s squad this season is so much stronger than last year and they have considerable, and game-changing, options on the bench each game.


2. Man United’s defensive issues likely to cost them top four spot
Jose Mourinho wanted two new center backs in the summer and he didn’t get them. At every opportunity Manchester United’s manager is reminding Ed Woodward what a monumental mistake he made for not releasing the funds for United to buy new defenders. Then again, Mourinho did want Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof to join United… Before the game against Arsenal he said he had no center backs fit. He played three of them in Bailly, Smalling and Rojo on Wednesday. Individuals aside, the 2-2 draw with Arsenal underlined the good and the bad about United. The good: they have a wealth of attacking options who are actually scoring goals and creating opponents problems. The bad: they can’t defend for toffee. That is very unlike a Mourinho team. David De Gea‘s blunder and an own goal from Marcos Rojo gifted Arsenal two goals at Old Trafford and Mourinho lambasted the defensive play of his side. If they’re going to reach the top four this season at all (not just by Mourinho’s previous prediction of early January) they will have to shore things up defensively. As bad as United have been this season, and leaving the Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku situation to one side, they are only eight points off the top four. But they do have the sixth-worst defensive record and also have a negative goal difference. That says it all.


3. Chelsea’s title charge may already be over
The way Chelsea folded at newly-promoted Wolves on Wednesday suggests they are nowhere near ready for a title push. Maurizio Sarri said he is “very worried” after watching his side surrender a 1-0 lead as they were pushed over and roughed up by a hungry, out-of-form, Wolves to lose 2-1. Chelsea’s tremendous early-season form relied heavily on Eden Hazard and the Belgian has been off the boil in recent weeks. He hasn’t scored since early October and unlike Liverpool, those who Sarri brought into the team at Wolves struggled. Alvaro Morata had another off day, Cesc Fabregas was overpowered and Andreas Christensen was hardly rock solid. 10 points behind Man City who they face on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, it is fair to say Chelsea’s title bid is pretty much over before it ever began.


4. Hasenhuettl has plenty of defensive work to do too
Southampton’s new manager Ralph Hasenhuettl met the media on Thursday and he has quite the way with words. He also knows the one area where he needs to improve the team immediately: defense. It is often cliche to say a manager ‘needs to sort the defense out’ when he first comes in midseason, but this is so very true in this case. Saints lost 3-1 at Tottenham and trailed 3-0 early in the second half before Spurs stopped playing. Hasenhuettl has a bloated squad at Saints and the likes of Yoshida, Stephens, Vestergaard, Bednarek and Hoedt have all been used this season without finding a successful combination. Sorting out their backline is the main issue for Hasenhuettl early on as Saints have let in seven goals in their last three games in the PL, although they have scored five in that period. Going forward they have weapons to hurt their opponents but building a solid foundation is key. Then, and only then, will Hasenhuettl be able to promote his 4-2-2-2 formation which relies on high-pressing and relentless running. Southampton will be hoping Hasenhuettl has the same impact as the last manager they brought in midseason, Mauricio Pochettino back in January 2013.


5. Fulham improving slowly under Claudio Ranieri
Even though they coughed up a late goal at home against Leicester, the signs are good for Fulham under Claudio Ranieri. Fulham led the Foxes 1-0 and although they will be disappointed to not open up with two wins from Ranieri’s first three games in charge, there are encouraging signs that the players are grasping his ideas. Fulham’s defense has conceded just three times over the past two games and after the 2-0 defeat at Chelsea at the weekend, Ranieri revealed he was more pleased with how his team played there than he was in the 3-2 home win against Southampton on his debut. They look solid in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Chambers and Seri shoring things up in front of the back four. Ranieri is getting this Fulham side back to basics and the pace of Kamara and Sessegnon on the break works well with Mitrovic’s hold-up play. Working Andre Schurrle back into the team will also help, but shoring up Fulham’s defense is key to Ranieri’s philosophy.

Report: Nantes ponders cancelling Miazga loan for poor play

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According to independent French journalist Mohamed Toubache-Ter, Ligue 1 club FC Nantes is considering cancelling the loan of Matt Miazga during the January transfer window due to poor play.

Toubache-Ter was first to the news that Miazga would go out on loan from Chelsea this summer, originally thought to be to fellow French side Caen before Nantes came in last-minute with a better offer.

Since arriving on August 6 and riding the bench during the season opener, Miazga has played the full 90 minutes in every league match for the club before a yellow card suspension served on October 20. However, the 23-year-old was dropped out of the squad completely for Saturday’s 2-1 win over Amiens, and was not included in the Nantes squad for the club’s upcoming Coupe de la Ligue match at Montpellier on Tuesday. It was reported that he was not present with the team at the airport for the trip.

Miazga has been an important part of the recent USMNT youth reload, and he has played well overall in his seven caps over the last calendar year since the United States missed out on World Cup qualification. However, at Nantes, the club sits in the bottom half of the Ligue 1 table and has conceded 17 goals, three behind Amiens for most in the French top flight.

Cancelling a loan deal is somewhat complicated, and often results in a penalty fee being paid and it could sour relationships for future loans. Therefore, this is far from a certain thing. However, if the front office feels like Miazga’s presence is hurting the team or better options are likely on the way in January, the club may feel making the move is worth any potential hassle.

Miazga’s competition at Nantes includes the pair that started the Amiens match – 25-year-old Brazilian Diego Carlos and 28-year-old Senegalese CB Kara Mbodji – plus 31-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Pallois who was on the bench for that league tussle. All three were included in the Coupe de la Ligue squad for this week.

The American was originally sent out on loan because he was considered nowhere near the current Chelsea squad that includes David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, and Gary Cahill.