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Sarri learning to deal with the realities of squad rotation

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Sarri was criticized at Napoli for a lack of squad rotation, but he’s showing signs that he’s learning from those mistakes.

Chelsea v FC BATE Borisov - UEFA Europa League - Group L Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Maurizio Sarri is not a huge fan of squad rotation, but he’s begrudgingly started to establish a fairly clear first- and second-string group among the 28 players (or so) available to him on a semiweekly basis.

At the moment, that depth chart looks something like this:

  • Goalkeeper: All Kepa all the time
  • First-string defence: Alonso, David Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta
  • Second-string defence: Emerson, Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta
  • First-string midfield: Kovačić/Barkley, Jorginho, Kanté
  • Second-string midfield: Barkley/RLC, Fàbregas, whoever’s fit
  • First-string attack: Hazard and two others
  • Second-string attack: No Hazard

That sort of thinking, switching between two sets of players, is almost a requirement when less than 72 hours pass between games.

The drawback is obviously that if Chelsea prioritize the league (as we should), the second-string has to deal with the challenges of Europe and the Cups. And while those challenges are fairly easy at the moment — PAOK, Vidi, and BATE are not exactly top class opposition — and the backups and reserves should be able to handle it, that won’t always be the case, especially in the later rounds.

(Ed.note: Sarri’s not the first head coach in the Premier League to point this out, nor will he be the last, and it’s unclear if there is a good solution. Allowing games to move outside the confines of broadcast television could be a good start, but it would be far more helpful in terms of fitness levels to scrap the League Cup as well as the FIFA-mandated international breaks to allow the schedule to spread out a bit more.)

“We need to change six or seven players for Sunday. It’s very difficult in England to play in Europe. I think also in the Champions League, because Liverpool had to play in Naples after two games against Chelsea. United had to play against Juventus, three days after the match here at Stamford Bridge.”

“We have to play 65 hours after this match, so it’s very difficult for an English team to be competitive also in Europe. I think the match in Burnley will be very difficult because I saw last season a lot of matches of Burnley at home and so I know very well that it is a very difficult match, especially there.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: ESPN

Burnley away is never an easy undertaking, but neither is keeping up a title challenge. If it were easy, everyone would do it! It’s up to Chelsea to rise to the challenge.