On July 13, 2018, the inspiring and magical run of Chelsea FC under Antonio Conte came to an end. It was long due after a lot of friction that was created between him and the board. Chelsea were quick to replace him, announcing the arrival of Maurizio Sarri, the new manager of the club, the very next day.
Some Chelsea fans may raise doubts over the new manager due to his inability to speak English or due to the fact that he has never won a major trophy. One can understand the concerns the Chelsea fans show since Sarri is not like other managers.
However, Sarri is unique. He is a former banker, who has never played football professionally. Yet he has earned the respect of great managers such as Pep Guardiola and Arrigo Sacchi.
So, what is it about Sarri that makes him such a great manager? Let's find out:
Who is Maurizio Sarri?
As I stated before, Sarri is different from other managers. He worked as a construction worker before he was a banker. It was not until his offer from Tegoleto that he quit his job as a banker and pursued a career in coaching.
He is unique not only in respect of how he got introduced to coaching, but also in his training style. Known as ‘Mr 33’ during his early days because of the sheer number of set-piece scenarios he would work on before matches, Sarri employs unconventional training methods and clever tactics.
For example, when he was at Sansovino, whom he carried into the professional ranks, Sarri developed a free-kick routine where the taker would shout ‘Loris!’, but no such player existed. It was a ruse to confuse defenders.
His style of football is fast-paced and entertaining. Credited with playing the most attractive football, Sarri's Napoli finished 2nd twice. Sarri also received the Serie A 'Coach of the Year' award in 2017 (Napoli finished 3rd that season).
Before coaching Napoli, the 59-year-old was at Empoli. He helped Empoli reach Serie A after a second place finish (in Serie B) in 2014.The following year, he helped keep Empoli out of relegation.
This caught the eye of many pundits, experts and the Napoli board and he replaced Benitez at his home club. He won the Panchina d'Argento with Empoli in 2014 and then followed it up with the Panchina d'Oro with Napoli in 2016.
At Napoli, Maurizio Sarri used a 4-3-3 formation. This formation is fluid, allows quick transition and a beautiful passing game. It allowed interchanging of positions, especially among the front three of Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne who hugely benefitted as they scored a whopping 156 goals in all competitions in the three seasons, that Sarri was in charge of Napoli.
It is no surprise that the first player Sarri brought along with him was Jorginho. He was the pivot in midfield, he was the controller who set the tempo with his passing similar in style to Sergio Busquets.
He would drop back to form passing triangles with the two centre -backs and also his fellow central midfielders, Allan and Hamsik. This not only tired the opponent's striker but also allowed the wing-backs and wingers to push up and provide width. Jorginho played a vital role in dictating the pace of the Napoli team and will look to do the same at Chelsea.
Sarri's Napoli played the ball from the back. Pepe Reina played the ball short to the two centre-backs, Koulibaly and Raul Albiol, who were comfortable with passing the ball around. Jorginho dropped in to continue the ball movement, which gave space for the full-backs to get forward.
Although Hysaj was more stationary, Ghoulam loved getting forward. The left-back filled in the space left by Insigne in midfield. Insigne loved cutting in and getting into the central area of the pitch just behind the striker (very similar to Eden Hazard), whereas Callejon provided width on the right. With his pace and his natural ability to play as a winger, he was tricky to handle and could pierce through defences with his bolstering pace and skillful dribbling.
With the various passing triangles Napoli formed all over the pitch and the vertical through balls they played to release the likes of Dries Mertens, Napoli was, without a shadow of doubt, the most entertaining team.
Sarri's quick flowing football is a joy to watch. Mix that with the high press he plays with, one can expect a very aggressive Chelsea this year with great attacking intent.
How will Chelsea line up under Sarri?
Sarri has a better man management than his predecessor, Antonio Conte. Losing players like Diego Costa and David Luiz was a huge blow to the club. Diego Costa has found success after returning to Atletico Madrid while David Luiz will look to leave The Blues this summer.
Maurizio Sarri may have failed in the aspect of man management with players like Gabbiadini. However, his overall man management is more stern and stringent than Conte. He will handle the situation of players like Courtois, Morata, Willian and Hazard -- all who look to leave the club this summer.
Unlike Conte, Sarri is not a manager who would go out and spend bucket loads of cash to bring in the players he wants. I don't mean to imply that he has zero interest in the transfer window. He would bring in a few key players but will also focus on training and developing talent within the club.
This will be a huge benefit as Chelsea has one of the best youth systems in Europe. Young players like Ruben-Loftus Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Charly Musonda are there.
Sarri is a modern manager with an unconventional approach. Another manager with the same qualities is Pep Guardiola. Despite his success, Guardiola wasn't welcomed with open arms to England.
It took time for the players to conform to new values of a new manager. Similarly, it will take time for the Chelsea players to conform to the values of a new manager, which make them uncomfortable. At a club like Chelsea, the last thing a manager would want is a slow start. This brings me to my second point
Chelsea are serial winners. Sarri isn't. Despite all the recognition and plaudits he has received, Napoli have never won the league title under Sarri.
A bad run of form towards the end of the season, including a loss to Juventus, meant that Napoli would again fall just short of becoming champions. With a board that expects results , rather, demands results, Chelsea might not be the ideal place for Sarri to adapt into the league.
However, given time, Sarri could prove to be one of the world's best managers and lead Chelsea to glory once again.
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