Belfast Telegraph

Boss Sarri has proved his worth to Chelsea, maintains Sinclair

Unclear future: Maurizio Sarri with assistant Gianfranco Zola
Unclear future: Maurizio Sarri with assistant Gianfranco Zola

By Robert Jones

Former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair believes manager Maurizio Sarri's future should not depend on winning the Europa League.

Sarri's future remains unclear ahead of tomorrow's final against Arsenal in Baku.

The 60-year-old says he will speak to the Chelsea hierarchy after the game to find out "if they are happy with me or not", but Sinclair is in no doubt that the Italian has done a good job.

"When you look at Sarri's remit this season, I think initially it would have been finish in a Champions League spot and then can you win some trophies," said Sinclair, who represented the club between 1990 and 1998.

"That's what Chelsea have been about the last 20 years or so, winning trophies. If Sarri finishes with a win in the Europa League on top of getting a Champions League spot, I don't think he's had a bad season.

"He's made mistakes along the way, which he'd probably admit to himself, but generally I feel he should stay and carry on.

"He's been in the country a full season now and I think he would have learned a lot from it."

Sarri started his Chelsea reign with an 18-game unbeaten run in all competitions before a dramatic loss of form, including 4-0 and 6-0 thrashings to Bournemouth and Manchester City, saw them slip down the Premier League table.

Chelsea, however, recovered to finish third, albeit 26 points behind champions City, and qualify for next season's Champions League.

But Sinclair fears Chelsea will cede further ground should they lose their fight against Fifa's two-window transfer embargo.

Chelsea have been punished by Fifa for signing underage overseas players, but the Blues will now take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"I don't think we're going to be as strong next season as we were this year," Sinclair said. "Potentially, Chelsea might have a dip for 18 months while we see out this ban. The transfer embargo might work in the favour of the youngsters at the club, and Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Reece James have all done brilliantly out on loan this season.

"But the step from doing well in the Championship to playing for a top-six team is a big ask for guys who are 18, 19 or 20.

"Add that to the real worry that Eden Hazard will leave this summer and it's going to be a tough job for whoever is the manager next season."

Meanwhile, Arsenal ace Shkodran Mustafi believes the Europa League final will be won and lost in defence.

Mustafi and his team-mates convincingly outscored Chelsea, whose total of 63 league goals was 10 fewer than Arsenal's, but they conceded 12 more and instead finished outside of the top four.

The 27-year-old German is still to justify the fee Arsenal paid in recruiting him in 2016, but with them at risk of following their disappointing fifth-placed league finish with defeat in a major final, he said: "It is about how we start the game and which team is going to be more organised.

"We know each other very well. They know our weaknesses, we know their weaknesses and it is about who is going to make the fewest mistakes. It is going to be very tight. But I believe in my team and I believe we are good enough to beat them.

"Even when you play against Chelsea, it's the Europa League, it's a final so it's going to be different than the games we played in the Premier League."

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