Chelsea may have recorded a 5-0 win on Saturday — the biggest margin of victory for the season and the biggest in over thirteen months, since Chelsea beat Stoke City by the same scoreline previous season — but the performance was only about a quarter complete. Sure, Chelsea are in the business of winning, but while Sarri’s the head coach, we’re also in the business of playing “Sarri-ball” and in this game, we only did so for about 20-25 minutes.
“In the first 25 minutes we played our football because we moved the ball very fast and very well. There was good movement without the ball. We were really very dangerous. We didn’t play with our backs to the opposing goal like in the last match, with five players doing it in the last match. We attacked the spaces and so I think that we played our football.”
What happened the rest of the time? A borderline penalty in the dying moments of the first half doubled Chelsea’s lead (Azpilicueta winning it by going on another one of his newly instituted under-laps) and a quickfire double halfway through the second half made sure of the points. But apparently the rest of the time, Chelsea just did what Chelsea have done most of the season, pass it around at slow-to-medium tempo and rely on the players’ individual qualities and talents to get results.
When the opposition is one of the worst Premier League teams to ever Premier League, that’s clearly more than enough (Higuaín and Hazard picking them apart at will). But Chelsea’s schedule going forward is much, much harder than Huddersfield.
So in addition to the usual improvements in the team’s mentality, the execution of the plan will need to be more consistent as well, especially when it comes to movement around the lynchpin of the system.
“My target is to improve the mentality, because if we improve the mentality I think it will be easier to arrive into every match with the right level of application and determination. It is not easy, of course, and it is a long way, but we need to try to improve in mentality. In every training, in every match, but we need to improve.
“Jorginho needs movement without the ball from the other players, because he is used to playing one-touch and it is very difficult to play one-touch without the movement of the other players. So, if the team, like in the first 20-25 minutes, played very well with movements without the ball, then for Jorginho it is easier, I think.”
Jorginho this and Jorginho that, it’s unclear if Sarriball can actually exist without him. We might find out one day, provided things don’t go too awry before we get that chance. For now, it’s Jorginho and Plan A, with Mateo Kovačić, and in rare(r) cases, Ethan Ampadu, deputizing for him to make sure his legs don’t fall off from all those thousands of passes.
“I don’t know [if we will suffer for not signing a midfielder] but I have to try with our own players. So, I think Kovacic could be a very good option. A very good option, then we need to recover completely Loftus-Cheek, after his back problem. Then, we can play sometimes with Kovacic as a central midfielder and then Jorginho will be able to rest.
“We are trying in training with two players; the first is Ampadu and the second is Kovacic. It may be that for the characteristics, Kovacic is more suitable for this team. As you know, Ampadu is more defensive. Kovacic is really close to Jorginho in moving the ball really fast at one-touch. In the future, I think he will be able to do this position well.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Goal
As we head into the final third of the season, Chelsea still have everything to play for — and a League Cup trophy is just one win away — and if we can improve from Saturday’s baseline, we might just have a few more happy moments this month and beyond.