Sarri-Ball Needs Tweaking To Reach Full Effect
Even early in the season, there were question marks over whether Sarri’s current crop of players could adjust to Sarri-ball. A two-goal lead against Arsenal put The Blues in a commanding position, only for them to squander it as The Gunners pegged it back level to 2-2. Chelsea did show character to finally run out 3-2 winners but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Defensively, Chelsea struggled and had a lot to thank for Arsenal’s lack of ability in front of goal.
Time On His Side
In all fairness, Sarri is still getting to know his players’ overall strengths and weaknesses. He also has to learn about Premier League football as a whole. You only have to look at the problems Pep Guardiola faced during his first season to see how difficult life in English football can be.
It’s hard to fault a winning team. The West Londoners went on an unbeaten run, stretching 18 matches, before defeat to Tottenham two weeks ago. Sarri-ball was lauded as innovative and the future looked bright at Stamford Bridge.
It’s still too early at this stage to dismiss the Italian’s tactical intentions. His nous for playing attractive, attacking football was evident during his time as Napoli boss. However, the Premier League is a very different beast to Serie A.
There’s no short-term fix as The Blues now face a hectic run of fixtures as the festive season approaches. The answer lies in long-term planning.
The January transfer window may prove to be the key to Sarri-ball succeeding. Whether Roman Abramovich is willing to spend remains to be seèn but, if the Chelsea owner does open the chequebook, Sarri must be allowed to pick the personnel he needs to fit his system.
A Square Peg in a Round Hole
Some of the current squad simply don’t fit. It’s unfair on some players who have not had the opportunity to shine, but we are not at Cobham with them every day. Victor Moses and Danny Drinkwater are two that spring to mind.
There are also a few first-teamers who have questions to answer. Marcos Alonso is great going forward but his defensive ability makes him somewhat of a luxury. David Luiz is another whose defensive inability leaves Chelsea fans quivering with fear. Both were comfortable as part of a back five under Antonio Conte. Sarri’s system operates with a back four. The most obvious mismatch is Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard really is the difference between Chelsea fighting for a top-four spot or fighting for the title. What a difference a prolific striker could make to Maurizio Sarri.
The final tweak needed has to involve N’Golo Kante. The Frenchman is sorely missed in the defensive midfield role. His impact on games is lacking compared to previous seasons. Sarri-ball doesn’t accommodate such a role but, to maximize the ability of the World Cup winner, Sarri needs to consider a slight change of approach to his tactics.