Unlike last year, Chelsea ended the summer transfer window on a very positive note. By addressing the goalkeeping debacle with a great young player in Kepa Arrizabalaga, and grabbing Mateo Kovačić on loan as bonus in addition to the £35m in return for Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea made new head coach Maurizio Sarri quite happy in his first window at the club.
“I am very happy for both [Kepa and Kovacic]. Because Courtois’ situation was clear. He wanted to go to Madrid so we lost maybe one of the most important goalkeepers in the world. We bought a younger goalkeeper, one of the most important young goalkeepers in the world.”
“Kovacic has the characteristics for us and now I think the squad is complete.”
Both players are expected to make an instant impact. Kepa, given his age and the big shoes he is set to fill, may require some patience to meet these high standards. Kovacic, meanwhile, should fit like a glove into the more attacking role of the midfield trident.
“Not at the moment for sure, but he is very young. He is 23. I hope he can improve very fast. But for the moment he is not Courtois, of course.”
“Kovacic is a very technical player, play between the lines of the opponent and I think for us it could be very important.”
As for Courtois, his departure has not been without acrimony and him wooing Eden Hazard with some of his very first words for his new club was supremely annoying. But Sarri reassured that Eden isn’t going anywhere.
“Hazard is with us. It is not a problem, I have spoken with his three or four times. He never said anything about the market. He is happy to stay here.”
“No, I don’t want to discuss contracts. It is not my job. It is to improve players, not sign contracts. I have seen a player happy to be here.”
Others however will have to leave before the end of the month, as the squad is a bit too big. That’s certainly preferably to having depth issues as in the last two seasons, but now we have a few too many at certain positions. Zouma and Batshuayi already left, and may yet be joined by Bakayoko (and all those not really in the first-team reckoning like Piazon and Kalas and Hector, etc.).
“The market is closed for us. Now I think the squad is too large. So I think some players have to go on loan. But I don’t know who at the moment. I prefer to have 23 or 24 players.”
“Maybe [Bakayoko leaves on loan], you have to ask the club in that moment.”
Another squad issue the choice of Captain, and it sounds like Gary Cahill’s one-year tenure is over. Rumors claimed that Eden Hazard might be in line for a surprise anointment as part of Chelsea’s pitch to get him to sign the new contract, but Sarri’s not ready to make that choice yet. In fact, he’s not ready to choose anybody as captain, so last year’s Vice-captain, César Azpilicueta gets it by default.
“For tomorrow [César] Azpilicueta, but it is not the final decision. I want to know the players and the man and when my idea is clear I will make the decision.”
That is likely to mean that Gary Cahill isn’t starting tomorrow and that Azpilicueta is, but Sarri wasn’t willing to divulge any more lineup secrets.
“I don’t know. [Kepa] is in the players’ list, and then I have to decide.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football.london
And so, in a few hours Sarri-ball officially begins. Long may it last!