Maurizio Sarri’s start to life in the Premier League has been unequivocally promising, and it has defied expectation.
To reinvent a team that has unapologetically subscribed to one style of football, was undoubtedly a daunting challenge. That said, Chelsea’s transformation, in such a short period, has been astonishing, and it’s a testament to the work of Sarri and his coaching staff.
Suddenly, Chelsea have become attuned to an expansive, and free-flowing style of football, where the predominant emphasis is placed on ball retention. Throughout much of the Abramovich era, the Blues have been recognised as mostly a devastating counter-attacking side, though, under Sarri’s vision, Chelsea dictate possession and lead from the front.
Having encountered the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool (twice), and historically frustrating fixtures such as Newcastle away, it’s admirable that Chelsea have sustained their undefeated start to the new season – except for the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City.
Through unrelenting work, and astute additions, the Italian has radically redefined Chelsea’s on-field identity and having won five of their first seven league games; it appears that the stylistic change has been to the club’s betterment.
Currently, the FA Cup holders flaunt a staggering average of 63.1% possession each league game, and with a ratio of more than two goals scored per game in England’s top-flight, the onus on attacking play has been palpable. This emphasis is further evidenced by the magnificent form of Eden Hazard, who currently leads the Premier League scoring charts, with six league goals – averaging a goal every league game.
For those who dismissed Sarri’s credentials, are questioned the players’ suitability to implement the Italian’s ideas, Chelsea’s start to the season has been utterly compelling, and if they’re able to maintain their form, it’s extremely plausible that they’ll be fighting at the pinnacle of the table, by the end of the campaign.
While recognising the marvellous and expectation-defying start that the Blues have enjoyed to the season, it’s pivotal that they’re able to sustain this form for the remainder of the season. Moreover, there is always a capacity to improve, and Maurizio Sarri should be watchful of not burdening his starting players with unsustainable involvement.
In the Blues’ 1-0 triumph against PAOK in the Europa League, six players who regularly start for Chelsea in the Premier League (Kepa, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, and Pedro) featured, with four them playing the entirety of the match. Accordingly, in the following league game away at West Ham United, the Blues were noticeably fatigued and failed to secure the victory.
From one perspective, I can sympathise entirely with Sarri’s predicament. Much has been made of his lack of trophy-winning experience, something that has been utterly incompatible with Chelsea’s previous managerial recruitment policy. Thus, the 59-year-old is keen to win every game possible and using his most influential players should augment his chances of success.
Nonetheless, that theory disregards players’ fitness and assumes that players can consistently perform at a high level. In addition to cup responsibilities, Sarri is tasked with ensuring the return of Champions League involvement, and scarcely do cup competitions (especially in their first stages) take priority over the league.
The pressure of managing Chelsea is immense, and due to the absence of major honours, Sarri is under further pressure to attest his trophy-winning credentials. However, the former Napoli man should look to broaden his use of squad players, to certify that his main stars are in the best possible condition.
Before Chelsea’s 2-1 victory in the League Cup against Liverpool, Emerson had been entirely shunned, having failed to be named on the substitutes bench for a single game this term. Similarly, the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi have yet to feature at all for the first-team. Even, Lucas Piazon is an option worth considering for inferior cup games.
The 59-year-old’s decision to introduce Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante and David Luiz in a third-round cup game, exemplifies his desire to succeed. However, focusing on the broader context, perhaps Sarri should place greater trust in his rotational options, to augment his chances of success.
What are your thoughts? Let us know!