Chelsea have started the season off with a bang with three wins from three and one of the four teams in the division with a 100 per cent win rate — the others are Liverpool, Spurs and of course, the mighty Watford.
The next test for Sarri’s Chelsea will be a home game against Bournemouth. The same fixture last season resulted in the shock 3-0 shellacking of the Blues by the visiting Cherries, one of the results of the season that defined Conte’s palpable discord of a second season.
Speaking in the pre-match press conference on Friday, Sarri touched upon injuries, Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s improvement and Kante’s brilliance, among other things.
The press conference began with a question about the squad’s state of fitness. On this front, there is good news as there are no new injury concerns. Fabregas continues to be the only one out, with the knee injury he picked up in our preseason loss against Arsenal.
“The situation is the same as last week. Cesc is still out. Actually, he is working in water. We hope that next week he will be able to work on the pitch, I think. I am sure the injury is not serious, but he has pain out of his knee. So it’s a bit strange, but nothing serious. The pain is still there, so for him, now, it’s impossible to run on the pitch. He’s only able to run in water.”
One person who won’t mind Fabregas’ injury too much is Chelsea’s young, swashbuckling midfielder and part-time model, Ruben Loftus-Cheek. With Fabregas injured, RLC’s road-to-minutes has become a little easier, provided he manages to impress Sarri in training.
That won’t necessarily be easy, as it sounds like that the youngster is still in need of some significant improvement.
“I can say that I am really very happy with him because, in the last 10 days, he has improved a lot. So we’re really very happy with him.
”I think that he will be important for sure. Starting in September, we will play every three days, so Loftus will be very important and useful for us.
“It’s not easy to play here, because here there are 20, 25 very good players, so it’s not easy to play in the starting XI, but I think if he will improve more, he is ready to play from the beginning.
“Because he has to improve, just in order to play my football. He has great qualities from a physical point of view, and technical point of view. I think he needs to improve from the tactical point of view, nothing else.”
Moving on to this weekend specifically, Sarri was asked about Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and the success that he has achieved. As it turns out, Sarri’s friendly with Howe, which seems to be a pattern for the Chelsea boss thus far. Maurizio was quite complimentary in his words about Eddie, while speaking about the danger that the Cherries pose.
“Yes. I think very well of them. Eddie came in Empoli four years ago for three or four days, and we stayed in Empoli together for three or four days. Last season with Napoli we went to Bournemouth for a friendly match, so we stayed together for three or four days. I know him very well. He is a very interesting young coach.
”I think he will make a mark in the English football in the future. They are very dangerous opponents for us, I think, because they are well organised, they are dangerous in counter-attacks, so I think the match will be very difficult for us. But I think that we want to be in control of the match. We want to try to gain points.”
Of course, the Chelsea boss isn’t wrong in his assessment of Bournemouth as they pose a completely different than Newcastle, and certainly won’t be sitting back and let us have our way while praying for Lady Luck to shine in their favour. Whether it’s the 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge last season or the 4-3 comeback win over Liverpool or the 3-3 draw against Arsenal in 2016-17 season, Bournemouth have shown that they’re capable of out-gunning the big boys, not just parking the bus and sneaking in a win, and that’s a threat which can’t be taken lightly.
This season Bournemouth have continued where they left off, winning 2-0 against Cardiff in their first game, coming back from 1-0 down against West Ham to win it 2-1 at the end in the second game, and coming back from 2-0 down against Everton to grab a 2-2 draw in their third game.
Considering how porous Blues’ defence has looked at times, this firepower and ability to come back could pose to be a big problem. Sarri has talked about the team’s need to improve in the defensive phase repeatedly, and that includes in-form Player of the Month nominee Marcos Alonso.
“He has physical qualities at the top level, so I think he can do more in the defensive phase but I’m not worried. He’s a very good player in the offensive and defensive phases, but I think he can do more.”
While Sarri is “not worried” about Alonso’s perceived defensive issues, he remains an attacking wing-back first and foremost. Still, he’s made the transition a bit better than the player who used to start opposite of him on the right flank in Conte’s 3-4-3 system, Victor Moses.
Under Sarri-ball, Moses is getting converted back to a more traditional winger, but this process isn’t going too well just yet.
“He changed the position on the pitch. Last season he played (at right wing-back), and now we want him to play like a winger. We changed the position and, in the new position, he needs to improve. But it’s only a question of time, I think.”
Another major change has been the role of N’Golo Kante, but Kante is magnificent, so his adaptation has gone a bit better. In fact, Sarri says that the little midfield dynamo has surprised with his overall technical ability. We’ve always said there is more to N’Golo than just constant running, tackling, and anticipating, and it’s great to see the head coach recognize that as well.
“My opinion is that Kante is a great midfielder, and I think that he is able to play in every position in my midfield. It’s not a problem for him. But I was surprised from the technical qualities of Kante.”
If any proof is needed, here’s Kante with the rainbow heel flick for funsies against Newcastle.
still in love with this flick from Kanté. pic.twitter.com/81ny7P326e— amadí (@amadoit__) August 27, 2018
Sarri also touched on the important of Jorginho, but the overall theme was definitely one of continued improvement. We may have 9 points from 9, but now the goal is 12 from 12. And then the season will truly begin after the two-week international break.
“I’m very happy with nine points in three matches, but I think also that the table now is not so important. Now it’s important to work and improve more. We have the potential to improve more.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London