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How An Italian Former Banker Can Transform Chelsea Into Champions

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By Football Italiano

Thursday 16 August 2018

Maurizio Sarri might not be the name you’d automatically associate with transforming Chelsea into Premier League champions once again but his appointment has renewed hope at Stamford Bridge after the disappointing final year of Antonio Conte’s reign.

Indeed, while everyone agrees the London club’s greatest attacking talent is Eden Hazard, you can’t underestimate the qualities of Willian, a player who wouldn’t have remained at the club had Conte not been sacked.

The taskmaster had instilled a particular style of play coupled with a disciplinarian approach that, instead of transferring to wins on the pitch in his final year, saw Chelsea finish outside the Champions League places in 2018. Despite winning a trophy and the Premier League the previous year, many inside the club felt Chelsea were worse off under the former Italy manager’s command.

Sarri, a former banker who never played football professionally, might not have the weight of expectation that greeted Conte but the man who led Napoli to a commendable second place in Serie A in 2018 behind all-conquering Juventus, has Chelsea fans hoping for a more dynamic style of play that better showcases the flair of players like Hazard, Willian and striker Alvaro Morata.

The new manager’s coaching career began in 2005 when he held a job at Serie B club Pescara. He later won promotion to Serie A with Empoli and, after helping the team to stay in Italy’s top division, became Napoli’s head coach. In Naples, Sarri exhibited a style of play that can be compared to Pep Guardiola’s high energy aggression. Both like to see a determination to regain possession when the ball is lost alongside pace and movement when in possession.

It worked well in Napoli. The team enjoyed more of the ball than almost anyone else in Europe – only three teams had better stats - boasting a dominant territorial advantage. Although Sarri’s men didn’t make it out of the Champions League group stage, they received high praise from Guardiola whose Man City faced the Italian club home and away including a memorable 4-2 win for the Manchester club in Naples.

Differing greatly from Conte’s direct, often counter attacking 3-5-2 approach, Sarri’s reign at Chelsea is expected to bring the sort of flair not seen at the club since the days of Vialli, Gullit and Hoddle. They started strongly at Huddersfield, albeit a team tipped in the Premier League relegation odds to go down, with a dominant 3-0 win, having gone into the game as favourites to triumph at 5/8.

Sarri adopted his favoured 4-3-3 formation, with new signing Jorginho helping to form a three-man midfield. It’s a role that will free Kante’s box-to-box instincts and ensure the frontline isn’t as exposed as last season when Hazard and co found themselves without midfield support.

But there’s still trepidation amongst the Chelsea faithful. Sarri isn’t the showbiz name of Chelsea managers of old – the Mourinhos, the Scolaris, the Ancelottis – but he is a man with growing pedigree. His best days are expected to come and the fans will hope that winning mentality changes the fortunes at Stamford Bridge.

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