Maurizio Sarri does not fear the sack after Chelsea’s sorry show against Manchester United

Things are not going well for the Italian in West London. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2019

Maurizio Sarri does not fear the sack after Chelsea’s sorry show against Manchester United

  • Italian still focused on job at hand with Blues out the FA Cup and falling in the Premier League.
  • Sarri has lost the fans in a short space of time at Stamford Bridge. (AFP)

LONDON: Maurizio Sarri insists he is not worried about being sacked as Chelsea manager despite his troubled side’s lacklustre FA Cup surrender against Manchester United.
Sarri faces a fight to save his job after FA Cup holders Chelsea crashed to a 2-0 fifth round defeat at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Ander Herrera headed United into the lead from Paul Pogba’s cross in the 31st minute.
France star Pogba doubled United’s advantage on the stroke of half-time when he met Marcus Rashford’s cross with a diving header.
Sarri endured chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as furious Chelsea fans showed their frustration at the club’s fifth defeat in their last 10 games.
Chelsea’s stars, publicly criticized by their manager on several occasions this term, hardly looked to be battling to keep the Italian as they failed to muster a shot on target after the 11th minute.
Sarri’s fragile relationship with his players, combined with the mutinous atmosphere among supporters, increased the feeling that the former Napoli boss might not survive until the end of his first season with Chelsea.
Demanding Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has acted quickly in the past when managers have been perceived to have lost the support of the squad.
But Sarri is adamant he isn’t concerned about his perilous position and he claimed he is solely focused on salvaging his club’s turbulent season.
Asked if he was worried Abramovich might be ready to wield the axe, Sarri said: “It’s not my problem.
“I was only worried about my position when I was in League 2 in Italy, not now.
“I am worried about the results, not about the fans. Of course I can understand the situation.
“I can understand our fans, because the result wasn’t really good. We are out of the FA Cup.”
Following widespread reports that Sarri’s players are underwhelmed by his stubborn refusal to change his tactics, the 60-year-old did make the alarming admission that he wasn’t certain he still had their backing.
“Of course I’m not sure, but I think so. I think the situation with the players is very good in terms of our relationship but that’s not so important,” he said.
“What’s important is to play and get good results.”
Chelsea supporters called for their club’s former legend Frank Lampard, now in charge at Derby, to be hired and directed foul-mouthed abuse at Sarri.
“Not really very well, but sometimes yes. For everything there is the first time,” he said when quizzed on if he heard the taunts from his own fans.
Sarri believes his situation will be improved significantly if Chelsea can string together a winning run, starting with Thursday’s Europa League last 32 second leg against Malmo and the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.
“It’s really very easy. If we are able to win three or four matches in a row, it will be easy. Of course it’s difficult to win five matches in a row,” he said with a curious smirk that suggested he didn’t really believe his own outward optimism.
“We need of course more aggression, more determination in the situation inside our box and inside the opposing box.
“My job is to work with my players to try and improve in a few days because we conceded the second goal without determination or aggression.
“The difference was there. We played 78 balls in the opposing box and United only 16 balls our box. We are supposed to win.”
Having previously questioned whether his players understood his football philosophy, Sarri repeated that complaint.
“Not completely at the moment because, especially in a situation like the second half, we have to move the ball faster mentally and materially,” he said.
“We need more movements without the ball and less individual actions.”


Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

Updated 19 February 2020

Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

  • Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands

ALULA: More than 260 athletes from around the world took part in the recent EcoTrail AlUla, a multi-track running race through the dramatic landscapes of AlUla in Saudi Arabia’s northwest.
Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands. The race was staged as part of the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival, organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla to promote the historic site as an exceptional tourist destination for heritage, arts, culture and sports.

Events took place on three different courses — an 83 km track, followed by a 45 km and a 10 km track — with international athletes taking part in each of the races.

In the 10 km course, 139 contestants took part in the competition, with 125 managing to complete the run. Saudi runner Mohammed Madkhali won first place, while Yemeni runner Fares Aman Aldin came in second and another Saudi runner, Meshari Almuhanna, finished third.

In the women’s category, US runner Meredith Byrne won first place, Saudi runner Sarah Abdullatif came in second, and British runner Maureen McConnell finished third.

Ninety athletes took part in the 45 km race, with 85 finishing. Saudi runner Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi came in first, with Australian Matthew Sudich second and French runner Nicholas Mordelet in third.

In the women’s category, Dutch runner Floortje Rawee came in first, followed by Italian Alessandra Grassi in second and American Natasha Turak third.

The 83 km race featured 37 athletes with only 17 finishing. In the men’s category, US runner Michael Wardian finished first, followed by Pierre Breuer from Belgium in second and Malaysia’s Soonseng Ong third.

In the women’s category, Amy Sproston from the US ranked first, with Ruth Theresia from Indonesia second and American Rachel Bessette third.

EcoTrail AlUla attracted athletes from around the world, most notably the US, UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Sweden, the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Jordan, Oman, Peru, Poland and Indonesia.

The one-day trail gave visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with AlUla and its distinctive natural, cultural, architectural and historical monuments. The trail is an eye-catching destination for running enthusiasts and jogging clubs, and will encourage people to visit AlUla and Saudi Arabia to take part in a global sporting event that promotes environmentally friendly principles and initiatives.

The race contained several medical care stops and catering stations, and each participant received a number in addition to a welcome gift and a shirt. An inaugural dinner was held to welcome contestants on the night before the race.

EcoTrail AlUla is the first race to occur in the Middle East and one of the most notable sports events of this year’s Winter at Tantora festival. The race was sponsored by STC, Almarai Company, Sabeeka Energy Bar, Whites, and Hussak Adventures. The festival’s latest season also provides a wide range of diverse experiences that meet the needs of all visitors and entertain all tastes, for individuals, groups or families from all walks of life.

The festival began on Dec. 19 and will run until March 7, 2020. Guests of the second season of this year will be able to visit the astonishing historical and heritage sites exclusively, and attend the international musical and artistic performances.