Should Chelsea be worried ahead of the new season?
On July 13, Chelsea announced they had parted ways with Italian coach Antonio Conte. The following day, Maurizio Sarri was appointed manager of the club. Was the sacking of Antonio Conte justified, owing to the fact that he did not go an entire season trophyless, winning the Premier League in his first season in England, and winning the FA Cup in the 2017/2018 season?
Conte's Chelsea team were a very tough team to beat. The 3-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium led to Conte tweaking his formation to the typical Italian 3-4-3, which led to the team going unbeaten for a long period. Granted, critics would argue that their non-participation in Europe helped, but you cannot take anything away from that Chelsea team that were the English champions in 2017.
Conte's experience of winning trophies while at Juventus came to bare, and it is no surprise that they bounced back to claim their second Premier League trophy in three years.
However, the appointment of Maurizio Sarri has raised eyebrows in some quarters. Undoubtedly, Sarri is a great manager, and will definitely bring his exciting brand of football to Stamford Bridge, taking into consideration what the Italian did at Napoli. They played an exciting brand of football which was obvious especially in the UEFA Champions League.
Recently, Manchester City winger Leroy Sane admitted that Chelsea remain their biggest challengers to the Premier League title. Sarri's Napoli side concluded the first half of the 2015–16 season Serie A in 1st place and gained the title "Campioni d'Inverno" ("Winter Champions") for the first time in 26 years.
Sarri also has the potential of making the best out of his limited resources as seen in the Italian converting Dries Mertens to a centre forward, having lost top goal scorer Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus in 2016 and the Belgian did not disappoint, as he netted 28 goals as the club finished third in 2017. The Italian could deploy Eden Hazard in similar position in his quest to increase the team's mobiltity. However there are concerns with the appointment of Sarri.
Here comes a manager with absolutely no trophy to his name, for a coach that began his coaching career as far as back as 1996. This is the Premier League, where you need all the experience of a manager who has tasted what it means to lift a trophy.
Another concern is Sarri's smoking habit. While some may argue that it necessarily will not have any negative impact on the team, the worrying aspect is the fact that he is often seen smoking during games. In 2018, Napoli's Europa League opponents, RB Leipzig, built a special smoking section in the locker-room area of their stadium, Red Bull Arena, specifically for Sarri. This part of his personal life is a concern, there is no doubt about that.
Lastly, Chelsea have been relatively quiet in the transfer market. The major signings so far has been just Jorginho and 38 year old goalkeeper Rob Green, and there are still uncertainties surrounding players such as Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard and Willian.
Certainly, Chelsea would not want to lose these players without signing a replacement, but they have to do that as fast as possible because the transfer window in England closes August 9 due to the recent agreement reached between the clubs and the English FA. Let us hope all those concerned at the club wake up to their responsibility and bring the team back to where they belong.