Premier League 2018-19: If Sarri is to challenge, Chelsea need better fullbacks
Maurizio Sarri must be feeling a lot of pressure whenever his team is about to play. Having to work with players you feel you can’t motivate has to be frustrating.
Nobody said it was going to be an easy job managing Chelsea. Sarri is going to have to work some magic for the upcoming fixtures, starting with the FA clash with Manchester United this coming weekend.
The role of a fullback
Football is an evolving sport, and that is why we have modern players with new tactics. For instance, the fullback position was reserved for defensive players on the flanks. Being either right-back or a left-back meant that you provided extra defense on the wings.
Fast-forward to now, and the ideal full-back has to be an all-rounder. You must be able to defend and attack at the same time.
A modern fullback must possess the ability to run up the pitch and provide pin-point crosses. They must also be able to cut in at the final third and provide assists or shoot for goal.
Defending is a fullback’s first responsibility. So you have to be very quick to advance and track back when the opponent is attacking. A good left/right-back needs to be able to read the game on the flanks, and is crucial for counter-attack play.
The problem at Chelsea
At the Bridge, the flanks aren’t operating as expected, and it is high time the manager saw this. Recently, Marcos Alonso has been heavily criticized for his dip in form. On the other side, Cesar Azpilicueta appears worn out from having started numerous games for the Blues.
Both mentioned fullbacks lack the creativity that Sarri’s style of play needs. Alonso is slow when advancing, and his defensive play leaves a lot to be desired. When he advances, he slows down the team’s counter-attack speed; most of his crosses are late and off-target. He loses the ball far too many times and does not provide the extra defensive cover that the team needs.
When it comes to the captain, Azpilicueta, he is good at defending and produces glimpses of beautiful link-up play when he decides to advance up the pitch. He tries his best but when watching Chelsea play, you can easily see the captain lacks the creativity necessary for cutting in at the final third.
Tracking back has also become a challenge as he gets out-run by fast wingers such as Sterling.
What should be done
Sarri needs to bring in fresher talent at the Bridge. At the left-back position, Emerson deserves a starting role. He is younger and faster than Alonso, who is more suited for a wing-back role.
Emerson has pace and flair as he is quick on his feet and good at dribbling when advancing against opponents.
Bringing Kenedy back after his loan spell at Newcastle will increase competition for the LB position, as the winger has shown versatility and creativity on the flanks.
As for the right-back position, bringing in an experienced and proven full-back is a priority. A player such as Ricardo Pereira of Leicester will provide an excellent challenge to Azpilicueta. Ricardo is a good dribbler and has scored spectacular goals so far this season.
In case Sarri takes the Blues to the Champions League next season, they will have to strengthen the full-back positions. For now, the manager can improve Emerson by giving him more playing time and mentoring him to become a great left-back such as Ashley Cole.
The captain is better suited for a center-back role, but he is the best player for right-back at the moment.