Sarri-ball isn’t going anywhere. At least not as long as Maurizio Sarri remains at Chelsea.
After a second loss in three games, calls to change the approach and certain aspects of the system have been growing, but the man who’s honed this system for the past two-three decades isn’t about to rip it all up and start again.
“It’s very easy to change [tactics] when you have to face a difficulty. But, at the end, if you believe in a style of play, you have to improve and you have to arrive to do very well this way of football. So the target is this, not to change in every match. To change the style of football, system, players ... that’s not the right solution, I think.”
So what’s the right solution?
For Sarri, it’s work, work, and more work. Antonio Conte would be proud. Of course, Conte is part of the problem, part of the old school mentality that needs to be unlearned.
“We need to work, we need to improve, we need to understand very well the style of playing. We need to change the mentality, not because the old mentality was bad. But it’s not suitable with the new way of playing. Then, after all this, maybe you do need one player.”
Comparisons between Sarri and Guardiola are abundant, both in terms of style and in terms of the first-season predicament faced in their Premier League journey — not to mention their professional relationship.
Guardiola was supported by his club, given time and resources, and Sarri is hoping for something similar. Maybe not on the same scale, but along similar lines.
“The market is really very important when you understand that you need only one player in one position for changing the team. But you cannot think that you can buy 11 new players without problems. If you do, the problems will be the same.
”You have to create a new mentality and a new style of playing. We need to improve. We need to arrive at 95 per cent of our potential. And then we can get the last five per cent with a new player. With a new player, not 11 new players.”
“At the end of the day, I can tell you the position [where I would sign a player]. But, before, we need the improvement of every player in the team and then, maybe, you are able to know the right position for changing the team.”
Sarri has been consistent in his aversion of the transfer market and any such supposed “quick” fixes, though it seems pretty obvious that the player he thinks that squad is missing at the moment is a striker, someone who can score consistently. None of the club’s leading goal-scorers fall into that category, be that Eden Hazard, Álvaro Morata, Pedro or Olivier Giroud.
“At the moment, we have Hazard with eight goals. We have Morata with seven goals, I think in the season, not the Premier League. Giroud with four goals. Pedro with five goals. It’s important to score, of course. If you have a player who is able to score every match, it’s really important, but I think that’s impossible. I was really very lucky three years ago in Naples because Higuain scored 36 goals in 34 matches, but that was something exceptional.
“It’s very difficult for a striker to score in every match. Every two is possible. In every match, it’s difficult for everybody. Also for [Mohamed] Salah, but last year he scored 32 goals. So it’s very difficult. If you have a player like this, you are lucky. But if you haven’t a player able to score in every match, you have to do something else.”
With or without new signings, the main goal is to improve, to learn, to work, to score, to win. This is of course not easy, especially not when it’s such a drastic change from what had come before.
Results need time, but time is a luxury not easily afforded in the Premier League.
“What happens if Guardiola had no time in City? Maybe the best team in the world wasn’t City in the last year. I don’t know. It’s not my problem. My problem is to improve my players, to solve the situation, to solve problems, to try to gain a lot of points. Then there is the club that will decide what is better for them.”
“[The] Premier League is a fantastic championship, but it’s really very difficult. Every match is difficult. Every match, also, if you are able to win, is very expensive from the mental and physical point of view. You have to play every three days. You have no time to work or improve the team, so it’s really a very difficult situation. You need a season just to understand the real situation here.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Goal
It’s a classic dilemma. Do you change the system to suit the players or do you change the players to suit the system? Sarri is very much a believer in the second approach, for better or for worse. It’s earned him a lot of plaudits, but it’s also earned him no trophies just yet. And if the point isn’t to win, then what’s the point, even? “Winning is our aim”, as the song goes.
Maybe that will change at Chelsea. But it’s far from the safest bet.