Talking tactics: What is Sarriball?
Chelsea signed former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri ahead of this season and that move has been applauded by fans and football pundits alike. Sarri has led Chelsea to an unbeaten run so far this season, becoming the only team across Europe to do so. They also stand third in the Premier League table, jostling with Liverpool and the gigantic Manchester City for a place at the top.
There have been a lot of talk and speculation about a new brand of football that has been introduced by Sarri this year. Experts term it as 'Sarriball.' It seems to be working like a dream for the team from Stamford Bridge as they have cruised in their Premier League venture this year.
So what, really, is Sarriball?
Sarriball is an improvised form of the special 'tiki-taka' brand of football introduced by Pep Guardiola in Barcelona and later caught up by the Spanish national team in their victorious 2008 Euro and 2010 World Cup campaigns. The only difference between tiki-taka and Sarriball is that the latter is played laterally, not sideways.
The most important player in the team for Sarriball to be effective is the central defensive midfielder. Here, Sarri has N'Golo Kante, one of the most underrated players of this generation. Kante shields the defenders from direct contact and takes the ball from them to pass it on to the attacking midfield players. The diminutive Frenchman also has Italian maestro Jorginho to assist him in this endeavour.
Jorginho is one of the best lateral passers in the game right now and he does his job at Chelsea to perfection. Both he and Kante combine to set up balls for the attack-minded players to act upon. Kante is often the deepest lying midfielder and acts as the chain between the midfield and defence. Jorginho looks for through-balls and works as the artist in the centre of the park. Certainly, Chelsea's defenders will be thanking the both of them.
Once Kante and Jorginho get their act through in the centre of midfield, there follows a series of quick, fast-paced passes which eventually lead to striker Alvaro Morata getting ahead and put pressure on the opposition's defenders. If there are any chinks there, one can be certain that the wily Spaniard will find a way through.
Left-back Marcos Alonso is also a very big component in Sarriball. He is often seen more in the attacking half than in his regular defensive position. Now that Chelsea have reverted to a normal back-four rather than the back-five as propounded by Antonio Conte last season, Alonso finds himself tasked with quite a big job.
Maurizio Sarri also favours Brazilian centre-back David Luiz a lot. That is the reason why he has found regular game time under the new boss. Sarri likes Luiz's ability to play long balls and give lob passes to those far from him. Sometimes, Sarriball begins when Luiz plays one of his trademark long balls directly towards wingers Eden Hazard or Willian.
The essence of Sarriball is in the involvement of the whole team, Kepa Arrizabalaga onwards. Maurizio Sarri has imbibed a brilliant sense of football mastery and if Chelsea keep at it, they won't be far from the top of the Premier League for too long.