The Maurizio Sarri revolution is well and truly under way at Chelsea.
The new Premier League season is only two games old, but the Blues fans have already been given an insight into what to expect this year.
Sarri was Roman Abramovich’s number one choice to replace Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge and as usual, the Russian oligarch got his way after intense negotiations with Napoli.
The Italian warned that it would take a while for his methods to bear fruit, but Sarri-ball has already started to take effect.
Blues fans have already experienced the fast-paced, possession football in their opening two games – wins over Huddersfield Town and Arsenal.
Sarri’s Napoli had the most shots on target, chances create and total passes of any team as they pushed Juventus all the way in Serie A. It is a high-press, high intensity system that requires work on the training ground.
Integral to his plans are the defenders. Sarri wants his teams to be comfortable on the ball anywhere on the park and play out from the back, asking his defenders to be at the forefront of the team’s attacking moves.
And David Luiz has been at the fulcrum of this new setup.
The Brazilian divides opinion, but he has been brought in from the cold of the Antonio Conte era to play a crucial role in Sarri-ball.
Sarri has given Luiz the freedom to get on the ball and bring it out of defence and with Jorginho and N’Golo Kante ahead of him he has an insurance policy.
But with that freedom has come confidence, a confidence to get attacks going for Chelsea. It’s all about short, sharp passing for Sarri, his team moving the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible.
And the passing statistics so far this season show the effect Sarri’s management has had already.
Sarri has employed the same back four in each of their two Premier League games so far – to great effect.
Antonio Rudiger, Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are the ones charged with implementing Sarri-ball from the back and in just two games the results are startling.
Manchester City defender John Stones is top of the passing statistics so far this season, making 177 in his two games. But he is the only player in the top flight to have attempted more passes than Luiz (173).
In fact, all four of Chelsea’s defenders are in the top 15 for passes so far this season, with Rudiger (148) 10th, Alonso (146) 11th and Azpilicueta (143) 13th.
And three of the four have successfully completed more than 90% of those passes, with Alonso only just outside at 88.4% pass completion rate.
As a team, Manchester City were the best passers last season, enjoying 88% pass success rate for the entire campaign.
Under Conte, Chelsea lagged behind in fifth place in the league with 84.3%, but Sarri’s tactics are already paying dividends on that front. That figure has increased to 88.8% – albeit in only two games – for 2018/19 so far, just 0.4% behind Pep Guardiola’s side.
Sarri warned the Blues fans that it would take time to get right, and if this is not right, then the rest of the Premier League should be very concerned about how the Blues will pass through them in the coming weeks.