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Sarri still coming to terms with Premier League demands after six months

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A mid-season evaluation from the Chelsea head coach

Vidi FC v Chelsea FC - UEFA Europa League - Group L Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

When he switched from Serie A to the Premier League, Maurizio Sarri was prepared for a league that runs a lot. Like Antontio Conte before him, he made it clear that he wanted players to “eat grass” — to run hard all game long.

What he wasn’t completely prepared for is the quality of the running that would be needed, rather than just pure quantity, as he reflected in comments this weekend ahead of the match against Crystal Palace.

“In Italy, we run more in terms of quantity. But the difference is the quality. Here, there are more accelerations and the number of them is really very important. There are 1.1 accelerations every minute – over 23, 24 kilometres per hour – and it’s difficult because for these accelerations, you need a very big engine.

“It is more difficult than in Italy. The quantity of running is higher in Italy or at least the quantity of running of Napoli was more than at Chelsea but the quality is different.”

Going into the New Year, Chelsea sit fourth in the table and have had their ups and downs, but the club seem to be satisfied overall. Sarri looks on course to meet minimum expectations (top four and cup challenges) while implementing a radically different style of play — one that wasn’t helped by an insufficient preseason, a product of his late arrival and the World Cup delaying player returns.

“We had a very unusual preseason, which was really difficult – I have no experience of this kind of preseason. We had three weeks for working and then we started to play every three days so it is not easy to work here to improve the single [individual] players and the team. It is quite difficult.”

“We’ve made mistakes in two matches – Wolves and Leicester, although only in the second half against Leicester. We played very well in the first half. One of the most important performances of our season was in the first half. We were not able to react to the difficulty [after Jamie Vardy scored for Leicester in the 51st minute] and so we could have gained three or four more points. I don’t want to talk about the match at Tottenham [a 3-1 loss that was never competitive.]

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Guardian

Unless Chelsea drop out of the cup competitions they’re currently in — three, in all — Sarri will never get the time he needs to fully indoctrinate his players. As he’s said, right now the team is getting by on its skill more than his tactics.

It may be that we won’t see the best of Sarrismo until he’s had a full, uninterrupted preseason and maybe added a player or three.

Until then, any finish in the top four is a good one.