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Is there a hole in Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea squad?

Sunday 26th August 2018

Chelsea breezed through Premier League Matchday 1 with a 3-0 victory against Huddersfield Town but the Blues hard-earned victory against Arsenal on Saturday at Stamford Bridge left many questioning whether Maurizio Sarri's Blues lack the necessary depth.

Save for Arsenal, who were unlucky to draw Manchester City; all the top-six teams fared well in their openers. City and Chelsea won in comfort away while Liverpool dominated West Ham at Anfield. Manchester United and Tottenham faced more resistance against Leicester and Newcastle respectively.

After two rounds, more was revealed. Weaknesses were exposed, strengths confirmed. Spurs, who were inactive in the transfer market, need time for their nine World Cup semifinalists to regain match fitness. United's new defensive pairing needs to find its footing. Unai Emery must convince his Gunners defence matters. City and Liverpool appear ready to run riot.

Even with Arsenal's vulnerability, Chelsea almost lost their weekend fixture. Unai Emery’s side roared back from a 2-0 deficit to level before Marcos Alonso performed his early-season magic against a London rival for the second season running. 

The ragged performance raises doubts as to whether Sarri's new charges can challenge for the title.

Defensive quality in numbers

In defence, Cesar Azpilicueta remains consistent as either a wing or right back. Marcos Alonso did likewise on the left, if more so as a danger in attack. 

Victor Moses and Antonio Rudiger raised their profile under Antonio Conte. The Nigerian hasn't been so privileged under Sarri but Rudiger seems to be the strong presence at Chelsea who corresponds with Kalidou Koulibaly at Napoli.  

David Luiz remains in limbo, especially in a four-man backline.  Gary Cahill still waits on his chance to reclaim his place. Andreas Christensen also has work to do.

Competition is never a bad thing but a title side always defines players' roles in short order.

Rising middle class

Sarri is spoiled for choice in the middle of the park, too.

Cesc Fabregas is 31. He relies more on his positioning than his fading agility to track opponents when defending. Unsurprisingly, Sarri's gone with younger options.

At 27, N’Golo Kante has so much energy the new manager's given him license to join the attack while new playmaker Jorginho pulls the strings. So far, he's not been caught out on the counter.

Mateo Kovacic's been a force off the bench. T,he 24-year-old Croatian, on loan from Real Madrid, hasn't cracked the starting lineup but if he keeps playing so well, Sarri will have to find him a place. 

Ross Barkley would be the man to give way although the Englishman isn't having it. He too is thriving in the new set-up.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Danny Drinkwater have been the odd men out, so far, the former despite a strong World Cup.

Forwards?

Following Michy Batshuayi's loan to Valencia, the Blues are short options at centre-forward. 

Alvaro Morata scored against Arsenal but must impress later in the campaign to prove he's adjusted following last season's struggles. Olivier Giroud hasn't yet reset after spending the World Cup holding the ball for overlapping wingers.

Beyond the pair there's no proven striker. Tammy Abraham might be loaned out before month's end.

It won't be a shock to Chelsea fans to see Sarri resort to Eden Hazard as a false-nine it needs must. While he operates on the left, Willian and Pedro must share the right side.

If Chelsea suffers from a depth problem, it's definitely in the final third.

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Aje Omolayo

I like to think of myself as an easy going lover of all things football, however, I do class myself as a die-hard Arsenal fan but I'm not biased enough to view life at the Emirates through rose-tinted spectacles and can appreciate when we are beaten by the better team on the day.


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