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Great Britain

Sarri has no Plan B or long-term vision but neither do Chelsea with Abramovich absent

AFTER Chelsea’s 6-0 humiliation at Manchester City, it feels as if his time his up.

There is no Plan B, no long-term vision and little hope of him turning things around.

And we’re not just talking about Maurizio Sarri here but the big man himself, Roman Abramovich.

Sixteen years after the takeover that shook English football, and set the trend for the foreign dominance of the Premier League, Abramovich has become just another absentee landlord.

The man who bankrolled five Premier League titles, a European Cup and nine more major trophies is on the wane.

Speaking to Sky Italia on Sunday night, Sarri laid bare Chelsea’s leadership void.

He said: “If the president (Abramovich) calls, I’ll be happy, seeing as I never hear from him. I don’t know what to expect.”

This has been Chelsea’s most glaring problem since Abramovich’s visa issues became apparent soon after last year’s Salisbury poisoning affair.

A couple of innocent Russian lads pop over to look at a tall cathedral and a once-mighty footballing empire crumbles . . .

Well, the UK government were actually tightening up on “investor visas” for wealthy allies of Vladimir Putin before the Skripal case.

Maurizio Sarri says his job is 'always at risk' and talks not shaking Pep Guardiola's hand after embarrassing Man City loss

And Abramovich hasn’t actually abandoned Chelsea he backed Sarri in the summer and again with a loan deal for Gonzalo Higuain as well as an agreement for Christian Pulisic to arrive from Borussia Dortmund next season.

But something fundamental has changed at Chelsea. Abramovich has not been seen in his Stamford Bridge executive box all season and no longer lands his helicopter at a nearby hotel for a quick scoot into the Cobham training base.

There has been no like-for-like replacement in the club hierarchy for Michael Emenalo — a better operator than often given credit for and a man whose football knowledge is missed.

More significantly, Abramovich has scrapped plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge, which now feels like a museum piece for a supposed elite club.

Of course the Russian has never gone around shooting his mouth off. You’ve probably never even heard his voice.

I heard him speaking once in a hotel bar in Valencia after he first sacked Jose Mourinho in 2007.

In an odd-but-endearing move, he had asked his heavies to drag a few Chelsea fans in off the streets after a Champions League match and, flanked by his then-wife Dasha, he was assuring them of his ongoing commitment to the club.

It was a commitment which few doubted until the past year but now, with his nose put out of joint, it is difficult to imagine him fully embracing the club as before.

Not that this makes Sarri bullet-proof.

As a supposed intellectual, the Italian should be aware that Russian oligarchs aren’t big on being criticised in public.

By calling out Abramovich, Sarri has increased the chances of a phone call from the Russian’s right-hand woman Marina Granovskaia telling him that he’s offski.
You can advocate proprietorial patience all you like but Abramovich has never shown that virtue.

And so a 14th managerial change would surprise few, even if this hire-and-fire approach is self-defeating — tilting the balance of power towards Chelsea’s players, who are always likely to outlive their boss.

But Abramovich’s Chelsea simply do not lose back-to-back away matches by an aggregate of 10-0.

Paul Clement suggests Maurizio Sarri could be sacked at Chelsea as Roman Abramovich 'will not accept' bad performances

The 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth 11 days earlier had been the biggest defeat since his takeover but it was quickly eclipsed by Sunday’s pummelling.

City, whose Abu Dhabi sheikhs usurped Abramovich as England’s wealthiest owners, are unlikely to show much mercy when the sides go again in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday week.

It is clear that Sarri is struggling to convince a headstrong Chelsea dressing room of his passing philosophy.

And it is baffling a man lauded as such a clever dick should be unable to adapt his tactics to a league with an increased tempo and physicality, where his midfield pivot Jorginho is targeted and negated.

Sarri has spent much of the season playing two Footballers of the Year out of position — N’Golo Kante, as well as Eden Hazard, now restored to the wing after Higuain’s arrival.

But this summer is likely to see Hazard depart, along with out-of-contract David Luiz, suggesting a squad overhaul.

Whether Sarri gets the chance to carry that out seems unlikely.

Whether a new owner can be found to take Chelsea forward is of greater significance.

Trailblazer Vikki was one of us

WHEN The Sun’s athletics correspondent and football reporter Vikki Orvice died last week, aged 56, it was heartening to read so many women sports journalists cite her as an inspiration and a trailblazer.

Many of us who worked alongside her for so long had stopped thinking of Vikki in those terms and almost forgotten how unusual it was for a woman to work in a football press box in the 1990s.

Vikki was a proper Sheffield United fan, who grew up watching Tony Currie and singing about Woodbines and greasy chip butties at Bramall Lane.

She earned the trust of many influential figures in athletics and football.

She had the caustic wit of a press-box lifer and — like all of us — she moaned a lot.

She moaned about everything except for the cancer that took her from us.

Vikki must have been brave to make the breakthrough she did as a woman in football journalism, and also to fight a dreadful illness for so many years, while still working.

But you wouldn’t have known it because she never asked for herograms or sympathy.

Vikki was just one of us and we loved her for it. Just as she loved being part of our wonderful, inglorious trade.

Just Khan't work it out

IT’S possible that Tony Khan, the son of owner Shahid Khan, is the best possible man for the job as Fulham’s Director of Football Operations.

And it’s also possible that Danny Talbot, son of Fulham’s Assistant Director of Football Operations Brian Talbot, is the best man for the job as the club’s European scout.

Yet when you watch Fulham, who have conceded 58 league goals this term, try to defend you have to wonder whether their recruitment set-up is fit for purpose.

And whether they might have been taking their reputation as a ‘family club’ a little too far.

It's a pearler, Dean

MIKE DEAN is keeping us on tenterhooks as we await his 100th Premier League red card but the rascal ref still stole Sunday’s show at the Etihad.

First, there was Dean’s flamboyant wide-legged penalty-award stance before Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick goal.

Then, the hilarious hiding of the match-ball up his jersey in a classic piece of tomfoolery at the final whistle.

With ‘characters’ like Dean around, who needs the actual footballers?

Cheese talk crackers

TOTTENHAM have scrapped plans for a gourmet ‘cheese room’ for corporate types at their new stadium, after ridicule from rival supporters (and journalists).

Spurs now claim they never said there was going to be a cheese room in the first place.

“Cheese room? What cheese room?”

To which there is only one response: “Stadium? What stadium?”

Best-paid underdogs

SO the wage bill at Liverpool leapt to £263million last season, overtaking Man City in the process.

Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield fan club might have to tone down that ‘plucky underdog’ narrative just a little.

Wood is hot to trot

HE hurls leather missiles at 95mph, his passion for cricket shines through and he even rides an imaginary horse when things get boring in the field.

It is great to have England fast bowler Mark Wood back.

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