Will Faulks is the editor at Chelsea-News.co and has agreed to sit down and discuss his beloved Chelsea before their host Manchester United in the FA Cup Fifth Round.
We discuss Maurizio Sarri’s first season in charge, new signing Christian Pulisic, and we even go as far to ask if he’d consider taking Jose Mourinho back.
Dale: It doesn’t feel like Chelsea fans are taking to Maurizio Sarri. His situation has changed since we last met, when you lot looked set to mount a title challenge, and now there’s talk among pundits and journalists that he’s under pressure from above. What are your thoughts?
Will: There is an odd and fairly unique divide in the fanbase at the moment that is the reverse of what you’d expect. The usually very reactionary and less patient “internet fans” are the ones who are desperate for Maurizio Sarri to stay (he was the dream target for lot of them); while the match going fans – usually more supportive of the manager and the need for stability – have completely turned on him. It’s an interesting inversion of the usual footballing order – but it’s not nice to be stuck in the middle of the two groups sometimes!
Dale: Eden Hazard is your star man but you always feel he’s ready to pack his bags for Real Madrid. Is he off and do you think Christian Pulisic is ready to shoulder some of the pressure next season?
Will: In my opinion Hazard is definitely off this summer. The timing just works – his age, the time left on his contract, the fact Real are looking for a few star to lead them into a new era, and the fact that Chelsea don’t look like they’ll be in the Champions League. As for Pulisic, I don’t want to write him off before he’s kicked a ball, but let’s just say I was a lot more excited when we were awaiting the arrival of a young Eden Hazard in 2012…
Dale: After listening to the odd Chelsea fan on radio this week, I’m eager to get your response to this… Would you consider taking Jose Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge or has that ship happily sailed?
Will: I wouldn’t have any problem with him taking over on an emotional level – he’s a Chelsea legend and I will always have a lot of love and respect for what he did here. It would take a lot to change that. But in footballing terms, it would feel like a backwards step, and I would much rather see us go in a different direction.
Dale: The Chelsea squad isn’t a young one. Is it unfair to expect more from a manager, in his first season, when he’s not had the time or funds to build his own team? That’s been the difference at Anfield and the Etihad under current management.
Will: I think it is a little unfair, although the long unbeaten run at the start of the season has ended up backfiring for Sarri big time. He could have got away with a lot of these heavy defeats in the first few weeks, but the fact we were unbeaten for a long time and now look worse than we did in September is the issue. Pep and Klopp took a while to get going, and there were setbacks, but one generally felt that they were on an upwards path.
Dale: A lot of us are excited about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer increasing his claims for the full-time job, but from watching Chelsea under caretaker managers in the past, do you believe there’s a honeymoon period and that we should relax by taking each game at a time?
Will: I think the difference is that OGS will get almost an entire half season to show what he can do. You will be able to make a really good judgement about him and his work come May. Chelsea’s most successful interim managers (Hiddink and Di Matteo) were taking over really top tier squads, and it felt like they just had to give them a push in the right direction. OGS has really turned things round from a disastrous situation, plus he has plenty more time to show how he can kick on and keep making them better.
Dale: How will the game go?
Will: I’ll be honest, I’ve been backing the OGS bubble to burst for weeks, and he and the team have consistently shown that it’s not just luck and some nice fixtures – he’s genuinely making a big difference. So while I’m much more confident than I was against City, I still think you’ll have too much, especially if you score first. 2-1 United.
Thanks to Will for asking our questions. Check out my answers on Chelsea-News.co.