10th September, 2018.
Chelsea’s center back, Antonio Rüdiger has disclosed that life for him has just got better under the new manager, Maurizio Sarri as the new style of football being played at the club presently is much more suitable for him.
It will be recalled that the relationship between Rudiger and the former manager, Antonio Conte got worse at the tail end of his first season. The root cause of that was a drawn game against West Ham at the Stamford bridge.
This had been preceded by similar loss of points against other teams. It naturally brought a lot unhappiness and tension among the players, coaches, fans and management.
Rudiger unlike his usual self made a press statement after that match against West Ham as follows:
“For me, it’s not easy to explain. I don’t understand why after 1-0 we always drop and let the opponent get more ball possession.”
“I think we begged. We begged for the goal. I think in the second half we can finish the game. But like the last few months we didn’t and we concede.”
“The thing is we have to look we have start to play good football and win games. If you don’t win games there’s no top-four, it’s easy.”
That was in April, 2018.
Even though he was not completely wrong in his analysis of that game, such public statements about the team were generally not encouraged at the club. It naturally got him into the black book of the manager and got him dropped from the team’s starting line-up for some games.
Rudiger had the following to say about about that incident:
“[Am I surprised by being dropped?] Yeah, a bit. I’ve had a lot of games recently so it’ll have been a little break. Probably [it had something to do with the criticism], but that’s not what I intended. What I said, it had nothing to do with tactics, it was a fact. Well, I think I didn’t attack anyone personally, I meant us as a team.”
“It’s just normal [the relationship], from my point of view at least. He’s my coach, I have to respect my coach, and that’s what I do. And he is a very good coach, definitely.”
Rüdiger was however not alone in these criticism and outbursts.
There were others such as Willian (who was, surprisingly, the most vocal and never tried to hide his anti-Conte stance) and David Luiz (who was, perhaps also surprisingly, much more professional but nonetheless quite clear), or any others who directly or indirectly made it clear that by the end of the season, Conte’s position was simply untenable.
Apart from that one outburst, Rüdiger refused to be drawn into such discussions. He made it clear that he was not going to talk about the past but preferred to concentrate on the progress that was (and is) being made under the new manager, Sarri.
But at the same time, he’s making it just as clear that the current situation is much better than last year’s as far as he’s concerned. He had this to say further on the issue:
“I played for Roma in Italy so I knew the way the manager [Maurizio Sarri] liked to play and it was something I favoured. He wants us to press high compared to last season when everyone knows we sat back.”
“Now it is different. We create a lot of chances and for me that’s very good.
“Mostly he likes the defenders to play the ball short and keep possession. I have shown so far I can do it but I want to improve every day. He is a coach who is not happy, he is always saying you can do better, and that keeps you alive.”
The only thing that is permanent in life are changes and that is what is presently happening at Chelsea these days. On and off the pitch, Sarri is bringing in a new era with new rules, new methods, and new intentions, and so far, it’s all going as well as anyone could’ve hoped.