Is Maurizio Sarri the Hero that Chelsea Football Club deserves?
Gone are the days of the Lampards, Ballacks or Drogbas, and now its rightfully the time for the Hazards, Willians, and Pedros. Chelsea Football Club, like its Managerial overhauls every 3 years, has undergone a paradigm shift in the type of players it used to have, and now possesses.
Anyone who has watched Chelsea Football Club's games from the 2004-05 era when 'The Special One' Jose Mourinho took over the managerial reigns, the Footballing Philosophy has been pretty much a defensive, possessive and all about counter attacking. Fortunately, all the other managers who followed Jose Mourinho were similar minded, similar philosophy individuals like Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink, Andre Vilas-Boas (Maybe), and most recently Antonio Conte.
Also, the players groomed, were too comfortable with the philosophy, as it suited the individual characteristics of all of them. Drogba was the target man, Terry was a mountain because rock would be an understatement. Lampard was the creator. All these players I mentioned were extremely important, as they had, at the back of the hand, the way Chelsea had to play, counter-attacking while letting the opponent play a high line. And rightly so, because all the major trophies Chelsea won, came from this period.
But now, Chelsea's team has had such a massive overhaul, that no player in the first team today is someone who has spent 10 or 12 years at Chelsea. Those days are gone. And so is somewhere the philosophy. Now, why do I say that? If you see carefully, 75-80% of the players the Chelsea team has, are extremely creative players who can perfectly love to have the ball at their feet for the whole 90 minutes.
If someone was to take a survey inside the Chelsea dressing room, I think all of the players would come up with the fact that they would love to create and attack, rather than the old school Chelsea style of sitting back and waiting for the opportunity to counter.
And there comes the Antonio Conte replacement - Maurizio Sarri. He made an above average, but a complacent side into Europe's best-attacking setup last year in Naples, Italy. 'Sarriball' as his game style is known, has a pretty clear agenda - Play from the back, keep the ball, make quick (read really quick) passes, and pretty much be on the attack for, if possible, the whole match. Well, that's probably how you could explain Sarriball to a 5-year-old. But does he has the players to achieve the same, what he did at Napoli?
Starting from the back, the highest transfer value goal-keeper Kepa has been handed a 7-year contract, and that makes sure that he is going to be here for a long time. This would be a good time to nurture the young keeper to Sarri's ways of playing from the back. He seems pretty underconfident right now, but 2 games are all he has had, and he has big and TALL shoes to fill (Thibaut Courtois).
Now the Chelsea defence, in my opinion, is nowhere what it was in the last 10-15 years. Well, after John Terry left, it was always going to be like this, and everyone knew it. Cesar Azpilicueta is a fading image of what he was for all these years, and Marcos Alonso is a Left Forward, playing in disguise as a Left Back.
But coming to the (less in number) positives about Chelsea's defence, Antonio Rudiger, the young German Centre-back signed last summer, has received some confidence (God knows where from) and he is being exceptional at the heart of the defence. Two more years, he maintains the same form and 2 more defensive signings by Chelsea, and we can at least create a moderate replica of what the famous Chelsea Defence.
It wouldn't be wrong to declare that Chelsea currently boasts a midfield which can come in the top 7 most complete and best midfield lineups in the world right now. Jorginho, the new signing, has literally drunk the script for Sarriball being with Maurizio Sarri last season, and if Chelsea were to repeat what it did in Antonio Conte's first season, I think Jorginho is going to be the key.
Man, it takes some serious talent & hard-work to uproot Ngolo Kante from his position and accommodate him in some other role. Pedro is on fire - enough said. Ngolo Kante gives Chelsea an upper hand in any midfield position, where he plays. Willian, I think it would be right to call him, the most consistent player in all Chelsea seasons since his arrival. I have seen Chelsea finish first and sixth and even worse seasons, but I have never seen Willian play bad, he's always at his best.
And now, the 'already' Chelsea legend - Eden Hazard. It would be enough to say that there is hardly any better-left winger player in the world right now than Eden Hazard. On his day, he can dribble past probably anyone from inside the left wing. And when you have opposition right backs in the Premier League with abilities like Kyle Walker, you need someone serious to get through them.
Chelsea can just pray that either Real Madrid ward off their interest in him, or at least keep a clause for getting Marco Asensio in return plus some cash. I know you would be laughing at this statement I made, but yeah, Hazard is worth exchanging Asensio with, and Chelsea would be in attacking shambles if Hazard were to leave. I will not talk about Kovacic as Chelsea plans, as he is like a student sent to Chelsea by Madrid, who is going to learn the concepts at a different institute and give his exams from a different institute and flourish.
Lastly, the attack. I have mixed feelings about Chelsea's attacking options. I genuinely, and from the bottom of my heart, distrust Olivier Giroud in the Chelsea starting lineup. That leaves Alvaro Morata if were to consider serious starting XI options. Now Alvaro Morata was sensational for Juventus in his time there, never got enough chance for Madrid, but somehow he has been lacking that magic for Chelsea.
I think Morata is a God if aerial duals are to be considered, but as far as Sarriball is considered and about the research I did on Napoli's attack last season, a striker needs to drop back a lil, to the false nine position, hold the ball until the wingers make their way beyond the opposition fullbacks, and then play the ball to the playmaker to start the counter. And I do not foresee Morata doing this in the Chelsea games. Well, lets hope Maurizio makes him the beast he was, at Juventus.
Now why I gave a detailed analysis about the Chelsea 2018-19 lineup, was for the title of this article. Is Maurizio Sarri, the hero that Chelsea deserves? I think he is. Frankly because all these years, Chelsea appointed defensive managers who had different philosophies than the player's characteristics. Now you cannot expect Hazard, Pedro, Willian, Morata to just sit back and counter or have the ball for a meagre aggregate 25 minutes out of the 90. I think Maurizio can build the game in such a way to unleash the real potential of all these blues, and it is going to be interesting to see the Chelsea games if this happens.
Also, it might be a huge gamble, as even though I mentioned against being defensive, this defensive philosophy has after all led to 2 titles in last 5 years. So, will Maurizio Sarri and his attacking prowess alter the Chelsea philosophy, or will it lead to another manager 2 years down the line? Only time can tell, but until then, Sarriball.