Maurizio Sarri was, and in a way still very much is, an enigma when he arrived at Chelsea this summer. Described in general as a football hermit lost in the vagaries of tactical schemes, superstitious to a fault and quick to anger, it was tough to know what to expect exactly.
Chelsea have had a habit of alternating between disciplinarian coaches and more relaxed ones (stick/carrot; good cop/bad cop — take your analogy). So when the operative word of Sarri’s first press conference turned out to be “fun” (vs. “work” for Conte) or when he pushed back the start times (or reduced the amount of) training sessions or when he famously unbanned bad comfort foods in the cafeteria, it wasn’t hard to assign him into the friendly bracket.
But that didn’t quite mesh with all the talk of hard, precise work on the training ground, which was required to try to drill the intricacies of Sarri-ball into this unfamiliar lot. Sarri’s tactics were supposed to be on the next level from Conte’s automatisms, even!
Morata in Gazetta Dello Sport on Conte: "H is one of the best coaches that there are, tactically there are few at his level." He adds that problems with the board filtered down to the squad. #CFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) November 15, 2018
So which one is the “real” Sarri? As Álvaro Morata tells it, it’s both!
“...he’s a Coach who plays very well with the ball and loves tactical work, but he also has a good personal relationship with the players.
“Sarri knows perfectly the difference between the various moments in the life of a squad: when you need to work he’s like a general and is the first to set the example, when it’s time to joke he can have you dying of laughter. That’s all reflected in the group, we’re getting on well together and we’re playing good football...”
“I was surprised that to talk to him you don’t need something to have happened, you’re injured or playing badly, or well. He’s always available and interested, he wants to know how you are, how your life is. Football issues, sure but also, I don’t know… the political situation in your country. One of the first times I met him, he asked me what I thought of Basque independence. I gasped, I didn’t expect that! We then talked about it passionately, and that’s something about him that’s not so obvious.”
It’s unclear why Madrid-born Morata would be so interested in Basque independence, but apparently it’s left an impression. More importantly, Sarri sounds like someone genuinely looking to make a personal connection with his players — something that’s important in any management position, be that in sports, in banking, or any other office or professional setting (that doesn’t mean everybody does it, unfortunately).
Meanwhile, on the pitch, Sarri’s system is starting to bring out the
best better in Chelsea’s most expensive striker. There are plenty of goals to be had, and he’s finally getting a few that he’s been due.
“His system is perfect for me, almost all the balls come to me when I’m in front of goal, and it’s much better than when I was playing with my back to goal and had to turn around - that’s not my game.
“One of the places I played best was Juventus, and there too I didn’t have to turn around, I just had to attack the space and run forward with the ball. That’s the same as now, and I’d have been able to score a few more goals if I’d been more precise.”
We had expected Morata to find this perfection with Conte last summer, but that situation didn’t turn exactly as either of them, or any of us were truly expecting. Hopefully Morata, like the rest of the team can now build on this strong start ... and avoid the inevitable bump in the road (be that in terms of results, discord, the “Board”, etc) as long as possible.
“The only reason we’re a little behind in the table is that we’ve had some draws. We haven’t been with Sarri for a long time though, we haven’t lost yet and that’s good because the competition is very tough in the Premier League. And we’ll improve.”
-Álvaro Morata; source: GdS via Football Italia
So say we all.