Gianfranco Zola was recruited this summer to help Maurizio Sarri settle into English football and life at Chelsea, and the former magic man has since been fully indoctrinated into the Sarri-ball philosophy — unlike when Di Matteo replaced AVB around this time seven years ago, one gets the feeling that Zola wouldn’t change much of what Sarri has been trying to accomplish.
In fact, Zola, who’s taking the lead on media duties this weekend as he has for most cup matches this season, has firmly defended his boss’s methods and ideals ahead of Monday night’s massive match against Manchester United.
“We are adjusting a few things, understanding that this is the Premier League, but without changing where we want to go. The direction is always the same.
“I know there are questions about what we’re doing, a lot of doubts, but we are adapting to the league. But we don’t change what we believe is good for this club because, otherwise, we are nothing.
“What we’re trying to do is ambitious in a competitive league, and it’s not easy. But we believe it’s the right way and we carry on.”
One of the common parallels that’s often brought up for Sarri’s first season is Pep Guardiola’s first season in England, when he failed to mount a proper title challenge while Conte’s Chelsea won the league, despite Pep joining a team that had been preparing for his arrival behind the scenes for several years (something certainly not afforded to Sarri at Chelsea). Manchester City had not only built the club’s structure in Pep’s image, they then threw their full and considerable financial muscle behind him in the transfer market as well.
But Guardiola himself made adjustments as well especially during and immediately after that disappointing first season (and continues to do so on necessary occasions, such as the 0-0 draw against Liverpool earlier this season). Sarri seems far more reluctant to do so — or when it happens, he dismisses it as “not his football” — despite Zola’s claims to the contrary.
“Two years ago people were probably asking the same questions of Pep Guardiola. Asking if he’d keep playing out from the back all the time. He said that was not under discussion and was just part of his game, even in difficult moments.
“Maybe he adapted. He has improved a lot in that respect because he got his team defending, pressing and attacking better. He has adjusted something, but not the way he saw football. you have to admire what Pep has done. Certainly he’s a good inspiration: not everything comes together straight away.”
-Gianfranco Zola; source: Metro
Guardiola had admitted that he was half-expecting that sack at Manchester City after that first season, but they stuck with him as they had fully bought into his tactics, his coaching, and his ideals in every aspect. Should Chelsea do the same with Sarri (who has a pedigree far, far less impressive than Guardiola’s was)? Can Chelsea do that same with Sarri?
Those aren’t questions that are easily answered, especially when the team struggles for results, consistency, or even just entertaining football.