Maurizio Sarri, 59 years young, has been a full-time professional coach for only a few years longer than Roman Abramovich has been Chelsea owner, but they’ve been a productive, creative 17-18 years during which he established a style of play so distinctive that it has its own name — Sarri-ball in English, Sarrismo in Italian. (Ed.note: it may have even inspired a ... cult?)
So for every problem that we saw as Chelsea were comprehensively outclassed by Manchester City on Sunday, he probably saw ten more. And while we are powerless to do anything about it except suppress a mild (or not so mild) sense of panic about the quality of our squad and our prospects this season, Sarri can actually do something about the problems that he saw ... though he needs time on the training ground, and a fair amount of it, to recalibrate a team that’s been built around the more pragmatic ideals of José Mourinho and Antonio Conte. Transfers or no transfers (and Sarri’s hoping for one more midfielder, at least), that won’t be accomplished overnight.
“In this moment there is a little difference, maybe not little, between us and City. [But] it’s not very easy. In the next week we have a friendly match again. I prefer in this moment to be on the pitch with the players training.”
With the season starting in six days in Huddersfield, we shouldn’t be expecting a miracle cure.
Sarri’s been through this before, many times (in fact, he’s not held a job in football management for more than 3 years). In his first six matches at Napoli he saw an opening day loss to Sassuolo (who eventually finished 12th) and consecutive draws to Sampdoria (7th) and his former club Empoli (15th). Napoli then exploded for 5-0 wins in its next two matches (against eventual third-place club Lazio and Brugge in the Europa League) before a scoreless draw against Carpi (18th.)
Chelsea fans don’t worry! These were Sarri’s first 5 games as Napoli manager:— SSC Napoli News (@SSCNapoli_News_) August 5, 2018
Sassuolo 2–1 Napoli
Napoli 2-2 Sampdoria
Empoli 2-2 Napoli
Napoli 5-0 Lazio
Carpi 0-0 Napoli
You can’t learn to play Sarri’s football overnight. It takes time. Patience will reap rewards #Sarri pic.twitter.com/i5hCTdbdMZ
Sarri says he’s getting better at the ingraining process, but given the strength in depth of the Premier League, it may take longer than six matches for his Chelsea team to settle in.
“I don’t know how long it will take. I arrived here three weeks ago, and at the moment I haven’t seen six players, so it’s very difficult. It depends on me; it depends on the players. Sometimes the work has been very long, sometimes not. In Naples we had difficulties for three or four matches, but the (pre-)season started at the beginning of July in Naples.”
The six players he hasn’t yet seen practice include three stars, Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kanté and Thibaut Courtois (the others are Gary Cahill, Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud). Chelsea will be better once they’re all up to speed, assuming they’re still around once all of Europe’s transfer windows close at the end of August.
But the last chance to get them meaningless game time is Tuesday against Lyon, and that’s simply too soon to get them ready. Most of the six won’t even play, although Sarri wants them to.
“It’s difficult. I hope so, especially for the goalkeeper, but it’s a bit difficult. We can do it for one or two players, no more.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Chelsea FC
And then the season starts.
Just as two years ago, there are no quick fixes. There is only hard work, dedication, determination, and a willingness to learn and adapt. The end-product may be fun, but the work behind is grueling as ever. So now we place our faith in Sarri to fix this thing in training. It’s the only real choice we have.