How would Chelsea line up under Maurizio Sarri?
It’s an all too familiar tale now – Chelsea will start another season with a new manager at the helm. As is usually the case when this happens, it’s perceived as a breath of fresh air. We’ll take that at face value. Still, we’re smart enough to understand that, although the departing Antonio Conte and the incoming Maurizio Sarri are both Italians, they’re very distinct in terms of approach and tactics.
Sarri must’ve been hinted on the sort of environment he just stepped into; one where the manager is constantly staring down the barrel of unemployment. This is exactly why the 59-year-old must dig up every trick in his book in order to succeed quickly on a turf he’s never been on. To start with, he must decide on his first-team regulars. This must be done before the end of August.
Who are Sarri’s anointed?
At Napoli, Sarri was hailed for the scintillating brand of football he imbibed in the Gli Azzurri. The Neapolitans were brilliant to watch; they scored a handful of goals and won a record number of points for a Serie A runner-up. Their formation was 4-3-3.
Sarri used that system to good effect. His henchmen were the marauding Lorenzo Insigne, José Callejón and Dries Mertens. You can bet that he’ll plead with Chelsea to get him at least one of the trio. In his midfield, the former Napoli gaffer had Marek Hamsik and Jorginho – added to Allan, it was an attacking sword that produced ruthless results. Those players produced 62 league goals including assists last season.
The question is, can Sarri recreate such an attacking team at Chelsea? If yes, then which set of players could best achieve that?
Given that Sarri played with two wide men (Insigne and Callejon) and a false nine (Martens) at Napoli. He should replicate same at Chelsea with the exception being the false nine. Alvaro Morata would be given a chance to come good this time. Eden Hazard and Willian would make up the trio. Chelsea is big enough to fend off offers for those two who on their day are better players than Callejon and Insigne.
Hazard should run the channels like only he knows how. He'll have the freedom to terrorise anywhere he wishes in the final third. Willian is also good at tormenting from the wide areas and would do just that with a position from the right. That would leave Morata at the pinnacle, wreaking havoc with the goodies he’ll get from the men behind him.
Chelsea paid a lot of money for Jorginho. The Brazilian-born Italian was impeccable for Napoli last season and comes with the advantage of being the only player with a personal relationship with the new gaffer. Jorginho complemented Allan in central midfield and did a great job freeing up Hamsik who played an attacking role. Sarri would surely give him the chance to reproduce same on a different terrain. Like Hamsik, Barkley would be the one reaping all the dividends of Jorginho’s talent at Chelsea. The Englishman is a terrific playmaker who’s brilliant career has been threatened by injury. Chelsea and Sarri will soon learn how much of a gift he is.
The glue that’ll hold it all together in Sarri’s Chelsea midfield will be N’Golo Kante. For once, I’d hold back myself from saying too much about the French World Champion. What a player!
Chelsea has a defence Sarri can boast about. Conte leveraged on that back line to win himself a Premier League title in his first year. His predecessor will do well to do the same. Despite the irresistible talent on Chelsea’s defensive roster, Sarri can’t pick them all. When it comes down to it, Cesar Azpilicueta cannot be ignored. He would undoubtedly hold down a right-wingback position. Marcos Alonso should do same on the left. That leaves the two centre-half position up for grabs.
Sarri loves his team to attack. No libero at Chelsea does that better than David Luiz. However, the gaffer would need another calmer but quick-thinking centre-half who can sit back and hold it together when Luiz barges forward. Someone in the mode of Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. Who better to do that than Antonio Rüdiger?
Chelsea has a goalkeeper who just won the Golden Glove at the World Cup. That’s a good definition of an asset. Albeit there’s been a question mark regarding Thibaut Courtois commitment to life in London. That’s why Chelsea should probably sell him and get some other hotshot keeper. The feasibility of that transfer happening is very slim; especially with his new status. The Blues would battle to keep him with daggers drawn.
So, Maurizio Sarri will likely have Courtois as his first choice Chelsea goalie, just like the two managers before him.