Maurizio Sarri has scorned rotation previously because his XI is a very detailed machine. At Chelsea, Mateo Kovacic and Eden Hazard complete the puzzle.
Maurizio Sarri’s are really quite simple when it comes down to it. Quick circulation of the ball with triangles around the half spaces pulls opponents out and then the ball is moved into the vacancy.
On defense, the striker and the closest midfielder press in a 4-4-2 shape. The same patterns are seen again and again.
But it is all also incredible meticulous. Every player is there because what they offer supports another player’s position. It is not a matter of plug and play. It is an XI crafted to support one another and bring the best out of the whole.
That is why the integration of Eden Hazard and Mateo Kovacic is so important. They are the two players that ultimately will complete the machine Sarri has been working on. Once both are fit enough to be firmly in the starting XI, then Sarrismo can take full flight.
It is probably worth starting with the parts of the team that already work. Sarri’s right side passing triangle has been complete all along.
Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, and Pedro all know how to move as a unit and play off one another. Kante and Pedro also seem to have mastered swapping zones fairly well. A work in progress to be sure, but one that is far along in the process.
The deep triangle that plays out of the back is also fairly complete. Jorginho obviously knows what he needs to do. David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger both have a solid grasp on the offensive end of things. And on the other end of the triangle, Kepa Arrizabalaga already appears to have a solid understanding of the players in front of him.
It is the left side passing triangle that needs the most work forward and backwards. So far, Marcos Alonso has been the only player in it that will remain in it. His partners, Willian and Ross Barkley, are part of the reason why he seems so high and dry on defense.
Willian, despite having a fantastic work rate, is rarely positioned well on defense. Furthermore, he seems incredibly hesitant to ever swap zones with Barkley on offense. Barkley, for his part, rarely moves in between the lines as he should and he is simply not strong enough defensively to shield Alonso when the defender makes a forward run. That triangle therefore becomes static and predictable.
Mateo Kovacic and Eden Hazard will fix that issue and already showed why against Arsenal. Neither Kovacic nor Hazard are shy about swapping with one another.
Furthermore, both seem perfectly capable centrally or wide. It was in part due to their swapping and pulling defenders out of place that Alonso was able to get into the box for the winning goal.
Perhaps more importantly, Alonso can move into more attacking positions with Kovacic behind to cover. The Croatian knows his role well and is able to not only shield Alonso, but unlock him completely. And with Hazard resuming his role as Alonso’s great distraction, the Spaniard can move on the opponent nearly unstopped.
With the final triangle complete, Sarrismo can enter its full effect. Up until now, Sarri’s tactics were at best half implemented into the squad.
Now, attacks could come down the left or the right (or even centrally) without being predictable. And the team can quickly fall into the 4-4-2 defensive shape from either side, something that has been lacking on the left. With the final pieces, the team can reach total Sarrismo shortly.
Players such as Barkley and Willian will still have their roles from the bench, but the main starting XI for the year will not include them.
Sarri has created his machine and will not swap the parts of it without a great deal of thought. It will be interesting to see what machine he puts together for the cups.