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Sarri isolated at Chelsea after fans turn on him

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London – The volley of abusive chants from Chelsea supporters were aimed in a different direction this time.

Toward the sideline at Stamford Bridge.

Players were spared on Monday, there was no need to dig out the “rats” banners from 2015, and supporters seem just fine with Eden Hazard and Co.

Typically loyal to their managers – and there have been a dozen alone this century – many Chelsea fans instead seem to be done with Maurizio Sarri even before the end of his first season in charge.

Losing in the FA Cup to Manchester United was the breaking point, even if it wasn’t a complete rout. The cup competition is low on Chelsea’s priority list – winning it wasn’t enough to save Antonio Conte last season – but the end of that quest only adds to the despair.

In this rebuilding season, winning the Premier League – as Conte did in 2017 before finishing fifth the next year – couldn’t have been expected given the strength of Manchester City. But neither was a slide to sixth in the standings and a scramble for one of the four Champions League places.

“I am worried about the results,” Sarri said after Monday’s 2-0 loss to United. “Not about the fans.”

But the mutinous atmosphere won’t be lost on owner Roman Abramovich, who has spent the year watching from afar because the British government stymied the Russian billionaire’s visa renewal. That offshoot of the London-Moscow diplomatic dispute feeds the uncertainty at Chelsea.

Without fan backing, the 60-year-old Sarri – without a trophy in his career – looks isolated and exposed. The much-vaunted “Sarriball” is now part of the vocabulary of vitriol in chants – with added expletive.

It’s reminiscent of Rafa Benitez’s interim title being used against the caretaker coach five years ago. Even in the darkest days of Jose Mourinho’s second spell in charge – as Benitez’s successor – it was the players who were blamed. Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Hazard were branded “rats.”

Hazard is the only one of the trio still on the team – not that he gives the impression of wanting to stick around. The Belgium winger has avoided committing his future to Chelsea and has openly stoked talk of a transfer to Real Madrid.

Much like Madrid, Chelsea oscillate from glory to gloom under a conveyor belt of managers.

There’s also a regular flow of trophies, albeit only potentially secondary ones this season. Chelsea can still win the League Cup by beating Manchester City on Sunday and remain in contention in the Europa League.

While Madrid dropped to sixth place at one point this season in the Spanish league, the team hauled themselves back up to third. Chelsea, who have won the Premier League five times since 2005, haven’t been as successful. In the last month, the London club have lost to Arsenal, Manchester City – a 6-0 humiliation – and even to an ostensibly inferior Bournemouth.

For the stubborn Sarri, there seems to be no alternative to the “Sarriball” pressing tactics that helped his Napoli team push Juventus hard for the Italian title. Just a repetitive sequence of decisions:

– a reluctance to trust young players like Callum Hudson-Odoi.

– a determination to shoehorn Jorginho into defensive midfield, forcing N’Golo Kante out of position in favour of the recruit from Napoli.

– persisting with a back four after a three-man defence proved so effective for Conte.

– substitutions repeated in like-for-like changes. If it’s not Ross Barkley replacing Mateo Kovacic in central midfield, then they are interchanging the other way – 20 times this season. Pedro Rodriguez and Willian have swapped places 14 times.

For all the problems, it’s easy to forget that it took Chelsea three months to lose a game as Sarri started on an 18-match unbeaten run. Losing to Tottenham in November now seems to be a significant turning point.

Before that 13th game, Chelsea were in third place and had scored 27 and conceded only eight times in the league. Since then, Chelsea had netted 18 and conceded 21.

The cups will now define Sarri’s future, and it’s one down and two to go this week.

Chelsea hold a 2-1 lead over Malmo in the Europa League heading into the second leg of the round of 32 on Thursday before the League Cup final against City at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

“The most important thing now is to stay calm, train really hard and recover our best football and our best feeling,” Pedro said, “because if not, we are in trouble.”

More specifically, Sarri will be.



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Government should not manage railways, says review

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Crowd of commuters at Waterloo Station in LondonImage copyright
PA

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Commuters delayed at Waterloo station

The man tasked with working out how to improve UK railways says a “fat controller” type figure, independent from government, should be in charge of day-to-day operations.

The former boss of British Airways, Keith Williams, said government involvement should be limited to overall policy and budget decisions.

But he said the Department for Transport should not manage the system.

His review of the rail system will be published this autumn.

The Fat Controller is a fictional character who manages the railways in Thomas the Tank Engine, the children’s television series based on the The Railway Series books.

Mr Williams said he also believed that, in the future, rail franchises should be underpinned by punctuality and other performance-related targets.

The government launched the review after passengers in northern and southern England experienced chaos over several weeks last summer following the introduction of a new timetable.

By December, punctuality across the country had dropped to a 13-year low.

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Getty Images

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Southern Trains has faced numerous strikes in recent years

In a BBC interview Mr Williams insisted the interests of passengers would shape every aspect of his work and that the creation of an individual or organisation with oversight of the entire rail system would be “key for regaining public trust.”

“Someone needs to be accountable to the public,” he said.

He is still to decide on what relationship the individual or organisation would have with government but he said Network Rail, the public company managing rail infrastructure, should not take on an overall managerial role.

The idea has echoes of the Strategic Rail Authority, a body which, from 2001 to 2006, provided “strategic direction” for the industry.

Mr Williams had already said that the current rail franchising model was finished, but he has now indicated that a franchise should last longer than the current average of seven to eight years.

Performance targets

He argues that if train companies were in charge of networks for more time they would have more incentive to invest.

As things stand, under a franchise agreement, a train company will make a series of commitments to the government which have to be delivered.

According to Mr Williams, a franchise should no longer be about “how many ticketing offices there are in a station”.

His team is looking into how franchises could focus instead on performance targets such as punctuality and whether or not services have the correct number of carriages – something which continues to be a problem for passengers in the north of England.

The rail review also looks set to recommend an overhaul of the complicated rail ticketing system, which has not been reformed since the mid-90s.

“Pay-as-you-go across regions and cities has been difficult to implement because of the fares system that exists today,” said Mr Williams.

He said a national system should be created to allow more third-party companies like thetrainline.com to improve the way people buy tickets.

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Amazon Warehouse Workers Around the World Are Striking For Prime Day

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Amazon workers around the world are going on strike today to bring attention to the working conditions they endure. “Some are arguing that buying from Amazon during Prime Day is akin to crossing a picket line,” reports Quartz. From the report: As the two-day bacchanal of discounted Amazon offerings begins, workers at its fulfillment centers around the U.S. continue to complain of extremely odious quotas, limited bathroom breaks, mandatory holiday shifts, and the need for pain medication just to get through their 10-hour work days.

The U.S.: Workers at a Shakopee, Minnesota fulfillment center will be walking out during a six-hour period that overlaps with the end of the facility’s morning shift and the start of its evening shift. There are about 1,500 full-time employees at the facility, according to the Daily Beast.

Germany: Hundreds of employees at seven facilities will be striking today and tomorrow, over longstanding issues with employee pay. âoeWhile Amazon holds a giant Prime-Day bargain hunt, employees are deprived of a living wage,â Orhan Akman, a representative from the German labor union Ver.di, said in a statement shared with Quartz.

The UK: The GMB trade union will be staging protests at Amazon facilities across the country. Some of the most shocking accounts issues of issues faced by Amazon warehouse workers have come out of the UK. One undercover writer said they witnessed co-workers urinating in bottles to avoid missing quotas by taking bathroom breaks.

Elsewhere in Europe: Workers in Spain and Poland will also be organizing demonstrations at Amazon facilities across their countries throughout the week. Here’s what Amazon had to say about the demonstrations and walkouts: “Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues. These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay (full-time employees at our Shakopee facility make $16.25 – $20.80), benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees. We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the event on Monday are simply not informed. If these groups — unions and the politicians they rally to their cause — really want to help the American worker, we encourage them to focus their energy on passing legislation for an increase in the federal minimum wage, because $7.25 is too low.”

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Ramaphosa files urgent court application against Public Protector – report

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has reportedly filed an urgent court application against the Public Protector.

He wants the court to declare that he had complied with remedial actions set out by Busisiwe Mkhwebane as she had directed in her recently released report into the pension payout of Ivan Pillay, the Mail&Gaurdian reports.

Mkhwebane, in her report, found that an early pension payment made to Pillay, when Pravin Gordhan was finance minister, was irregular.

Mail&Guardian reported that in his affidavit, Ramaphosa claims he had complied with Mkhwebanes’s orders.

The publication adds that the president says since the nature and timing of the disciplinary action was left to his discretion, the appropriate course was to await the outcome of the court case brought by Gordhan against Mkhwebane.

Last Wednesday Gordhan filed court papers in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in an urgent bid to interdict Mkhwebane’s remedial actions surrounding the so-called “rogue unit”.

Pillay followed suit and filed an affidavit stating that he intends to pursue a review of findings against him in a Public Protector’s report he says detrimentally affects him.

The publication further reported that Ramaphosa said in the papers that he had informed Mkhwebane of an implementation plan as she had directed him to provide to her.

“I accept the binding nature of the Public Protector’s reports and remedial actions. I accept that the Report is under review but that this does not stay the implementation of the remedial action, in the absence of a court order,” the publication quoted Ramaphosa.

The presidency could not be reached for comment by News24 at time of publication.

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