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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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DoNotPay App Waits On Hold For You

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DoNotPay, a free chatbot that offers AI-powered legal counsel, is launching a new feature that will call you when it’s your turn in a customer service phone queue. TechCrunch reports: The app today is launching “Skip Waiting On Hold.” Just type in the company you need to talk to, and DoNotPay calls for you using tricks to get a human on the line quickly. Then it calls you back and connects you to the agent so you never have to listen to that annoying hold music. And in case the company tries to jerk you around or screw you over, the DoNotPay app lets you instantly share to social media a legal recording of the call to shame them.

Skip Waiting On Hold comes as part of the $3 per month DoNotPay suite of services designed to save people time and money by battling bureaucracy on their behalf. It can handle DMV paperwork for you, write legal letters to scare businesses out of overcharging you and it provides a credit card that automatically cancels subscriptions when your free trial ends. For Skip Waiting On Hold, DoNotPay built out a database of priority and VIP customer service numbers for tons of companies. For legality, if you opt in to recording the exchanges, the app automatically plays a message informing both parties they’ll be recorded. A human voice detection system hears when a real agent picks up the phone, and then rings your phone. It’s like having customer service call you.

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DA goes to council over its future, with Zille placed a…

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The DA determines its future from Saturday as the battle for its heart and soul plays out in the election of the chairperson for its most powerful decision-making body after congress, the Federal Council. It’s tricky, regardless of how the chips fall.

Helen Zille and Athol Trollip went up against each other in 2007 in the contest to succeed Tony Leon as DA leader. Zille won then. And it is widely expected she will win, again, in what is set to be a tight party poll on Sunday.

That the other two candidates — DA MPs Thomas Walters and Mike Waters, respectively Deputy Federal Council Chairperson and Deputy Federal Chairperson — are not really being talked about is indicative of how Zille and Trollip represent the prevailing factions in the DA.

It’s, if you will, akin to a choice between Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

But in a political party that obscures its often brutal backroom manoeuvres with tightly choreographed public displays, the two-day powwow of the Federal Council takes place against the backdrop of carefully prepared steps. It’s been in the making for four months.

One, a deal was brokered to bring Zille on as contestant in a crucial move that pulled people together, as Daily Maverick is reliably informed. Until her last-moment entry, quite literally just before the 5pm close on 4 October 2019, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Trollip would win.

Two, moves are under way to collect the necessary 5,000 signatures to push for DA leader Mmusi Mamaine’s resignation. It’s the back-up plan, according to DA insiders, if the weekend discussions defeat the early congress and leadership election proposal by the review panel instituted by Maimane following the drooping electoral support to 20.7% in the May 2019 elections from 22.23% in 2014.

The only other way the leader can change in the DA is if Maimane were to resign voluntarily. And that’s not on the cards.

That the DA is at a crossroads was rammed home on Thursday when its longstanding CEO Paul Boughey resigned. He had resisted calls to do so in the aftermath of the poor election results that had elicited the resignation of Jonathan Moakes.

Moakes and Boughey go way back as part of the young Turks brought on then by Leon. And they have been close to Maimane — too close, according to some circles in the DA worried about the influence of those who are effectively administrators.

In his resignation letter released by the DA, Boughey describes working with Maimane as “an extraordinary experience” and how the current self-reflection was necessary to strengthen the party.

I have no doubt that the leadership and broader membership of the DA will rise to this moment, that it will recalibrate and come back even stronger to face the challenges of election 2021 and beyond,” he wrote. “In a country and increasingly global landscape characterised by the rise of competing nationalisms, the DA’s vision and values have never been more important to South Africa’s future.”

Furious campaigning has been happening in this hugely important contest even if it may not look like that from the outside.

Zille has campaigned hard, including sending out a personal video message and various pamphlets under her motto — unity, stability, growth.

If elected, I will work hard to foster unity, to achieve stability and to put the DA back on a growth path,” said one seen by Daily Maverick, while another promises a list of specific immediate tasks and the promise of Federal Council accountability and transparency. Also included in the campaign package are a commitment to “redress and diversity”, pursuing One South Africa for All, a capable state and “a functioning state” with a social welfare net.

We must be unapologetic about our love of individual freedom, no matter the populist pressure brought to bear on us. Our job is to show the voters that only the DA can save South Africa.”

Trollip’s campaign material seen by Daily Maverick seems tame in its emphasis on “Dedication, Loyalty and Discipline. These are the character traits that I have consistently displayed through thick and thin”.

A somewhat, but not completely tongue-in-cheek response from a DA senior was simply — “Mommy’s back!”

The Federal Council chairperson not only is in charge of the DA’s highest decision-making body after its national congress, but also the smaller day-to-day-focused Federal Executive Committee that has binding decision-making powers. The committee can, for example, institute disciplinary steps and does endorse appointments in DA-run government, and approve coalition agreements.

While Maimane has the numbers in the Federal Executive Committee, the Federal Council is a different case. And it has worked against him previously.

For example, before the May 2019 elections, the council defeated the push approved in the committee that provincial leaders, who are largely supportive of Maimane, should be able to double dip in the process of selecting elected public representative candidates.

Daily Maverick understands the numbers in the Federal Council could well indicate an early congress, as recommended by the panel Maimane had appointed some four months ago for the organisational review, possibly any time between December 2019 and February 2020.

The level of disenchantment with Maimane’s leadership is set to cause friction within the DA, even if the Federal Council swats off the proposal of an early elective congress and even if Trollip succeeds in clinching the post.

He does not fill the space,” said a DA insider in reference to Maimane and his leadership.

It emphasises the failure of the opposition party to manage the changed national political dynamics under President Cyril Ramaphosa. Maimane’s broken bus analogy — the ANC is the same old broken bus even with a new driver — in the run-up to the May 2019 elections stalled. Nor did the SMS and email campaigns — questions were publicly raised on how the DA obtained personal details — or the posters urging voters to keep out the ANC and EFF.

And while the messaging may not have been all attributable to Maimane, given the backroom team of pundits, pollsters and planners led by Boughey and campaign manager Moakes, who resigned in May, in the DA it’s the leader who carries the can.

Threading through the weekend DA Federal Council meeting will be considerations of the 2021 local government elections — and how the DA has flatlined in by-elections.

Broadly speaking, the DA has lost wards to the Freedom Front Plus, but also on occasion to the ANC, while even where the DA returns to the seat, it does so with reduced support. Voters turning their backs on the DA across the country is casting a shadow over the opposition party’s much touted “Where the DA governs, it governs best” mantra.

The disillusionment stretches from Tshwane to Cape Town — from tender and appointment controversies to the Day Zero debacle and the gloating about a billions-positive bank balance as residents struggle to pay rates and levies. And, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro was lost to the DA under Trollip as mayor.

For many in the party this is a worrying indicator with some 20 months ahead of the next local government election. Always good at number crunching and scenario planning, concern in some circles of the DA is the party may lose up to one in four of its 1,500-odd councillors.

Those are some of the considerations, which even if not on the agenda of the two-day meeting from Saturday, are part of the undercurrent.

It’s understood that on the back burner, at least for now, will be the ideological contestation over race and the role this plays in DA policies on diversity. Both Zille and Trollip accept race as proxy for disadvantage and inequality, even if Zille would be more strident in opposing, for example, broad-based economic empowerment.

The writings of Gwen Ngwenya, the DA’s ex-policy honcho who decided not to return as a DA MP after the May 2019 elections, on how race and race-based policies had “poisoned” the DA are regarded as part of a wider libertarian push by the Institute for Race Relations (IRR). Ngwenya joined the DA from the institute.

But the DA seems to have at least temporarily united on the ideological front against the IRR’s #SaveTheOpposition campaign. Its demands to, among others, “stop race based policies”, end the co-operation with the EFF and elect “competent leaders” have been dismissed as “naked opportunism” and “sniping from the sidelines”. DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen, in a statement on 2 October, made short shrift of the IRR campaign, saying it should “form its own political party and contest elections in its own name”.

This weekend is not just about the contest for Federal Council chairperson, a position held for almost two decades by James Selfe. Or even about the review panel’s recommendations for an early elective congress.

Other recommendations up for discussion are also important, if more structural. This includes the rationalisation of administrative positions, particularly given the drop in donations, the modernisation of the legal commission — it deals with disciplinary matters, for example — and also new fundraising approaches.

In order not to disrupt discussions, the 155-odd members of the Federal Council go to cast their ballots from 7am on Sunday morning.

Zille, a self-described “classical liberal” on her Twitter bio, pushes a fit-for-purpose regime measured largely by electoral growth. Her decade-long track record as Western Cape premier is admired across the DA, but her reputation was tarnished by her 2017 colonialism tweets which raised party hackles and led to her suspension from party activities.

Trollip is representative of what has been scathingly called the DA’s turn to being “ANC-lite”. He has pursued his ambitions for top party officer for more than a decade. He’s been a close confidante of Maimane’s — and has remained so even if it was under his watch that the DA lost Nelson Mandela Bay Metro after the historic opposition win in the economic heartland of the Eastern Cape.

It’s going to be a difficult weekend for the DA. And the contest for the powerful Federal Council chairperson post will in no small measure determine the next twists and turns in the DA. DM

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Bayern play down Lewandowski catching Mueller 40-goal mark

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Berlin – Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac cooled the hype over star striker Robert Lewandowski hunting down Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season by claiming: “There will be moments when he won’t score like he is doing now.”

“A lot of things would have to come together. He is playing really well and is carrying the team with his goals, but the season is long,” said Kovac.

“There will be moments in the season when he won’t score like he is doing now.”

Lewandowski has also played down smashing Bayern legend Mueller’s record of a staggering 40 goals in 34 league games in the 1971/72 season, preferring instead on equalling a more modest target on Saturday of scoring in the first eight games of a league season.

“It’s great to be scoring, and I hope I can keep it up. Then we’ll see,” said Lewandowski on the subject of catching Mueller.

The 31-year-old Pole has hit 15 goals in 11 games in all competitions this season and has netted in each of Bayern’s first seven league games.

If he scores at Augsburg, Lewandowski will equal the league record of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored in the first eight games of the 2015/16 season for Dortmund.

There is a strong chance Lewandowski will score on Saturday, having scored 18 goals in 13 games against Bayern’s Bavarian neighbours, including three doubles and a hat-trick in his last five games against them.


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