With two wins from two, one over a top four rival early in the season, you would be forgiven for jumping on the “Sarri-Ball” bandwagon. For me however, there are already some real concerns that Maurizio Sarri may need to adapt his style for the Premier League.
Before I say anything else here, it’s important to point out that it is early doors in the season and the new man in charge has only been here for a matter of weeks. The players are still adapting to life under Maurizio Sarri and for him to implement his style and achieve what he wants from his players will take months to complete.
In saying that, there are some noticeable concerns for me with our shape without the ball that WILL cause us numerous problems this season in defensive areas with Arsenal last weekend demonstrating what will happen to us if we are not careful. It was only because on the day Arsenal couldn’t finish off the numerous chances they created against us in the first half, that we didn’t walk into the dressing rooms and inside the stands as supporters finding ourselves at least 2-4 down!
Full-backs defending too narrow.
It became glaringly obvious last Saturday that the defensive line has been ordered to play narrow as their shape without the ball. Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are both being instructed to tuck inside and play narrow alongside our two centre-backs. It’s as if we are willingly giving up space down the wings for teams to come and attack us.
Arsenal exposed these areas for a fifteen-minute spell in that first half, scoring two goals and creating at least THREE additional opportunities which were squandered. All within a fifteen-minute period! There was no reaction, there was no organisation to ask the midfield three to tuck in and force the play out wide while asking Pedro and Willian to track back and cover those positions. The mentality seemed to be “play it out wide and when the ball comes into the box we will deal with it” and for me in this league it’s asking for trouble!
Think of the tactics that most Premier League sides employ these days and they ALL play with wide attacking midfielders or wingers. The classic formation appears to be our old 4-2-3-1 formation or 4-3-3 in the same style that we have adopted this season but the difference is that these teams are not asking their full-backs to tuck inside and play narrow giving the opposition freedom to attack down each side.
By playing this way against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, with the way that Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola set their teams up to attack the wide areas, we are going to face plenty more problems than we did against Arsenal, for more sustained periods in games.
It’s all well and good adopting this style over in Serie A in Italy because not all teams are prepared to come and attack you, week in, week out. Over here in the Premier League it’s very, very different and something that Maurizio Sarri will need to learn quickly.
Jorginho with the ball / Jorginho without the ball.
Every single one of us have been more than impressed with Jorginho since he arrived at Chelsea. His ability with the ball at his feet and his eye for a pass is outstanding and rivals Cesc Fabregas in my view. In fact, because of his ability to get around the pitch being more mobile that the Spaniard, the man with the magic hat faces a real problem to get his place back in the first team as a result – but that’s just my own personal view.
We have seen the Italian’s range of quick passing, his ability to find space, to make himself available to receive a pass and within an instant lay the ball off to a team-mate to get the team moving forward. His ability to find this range of passing with a single touch of the ball, rather than hesitate, take a touch then play the ball will make him stand out from everyone else this season. Against Arsenal he attempted to pass the ball on 99 occasions with 92% accuracy which is impressive.
With the ball at his feet, Jorginho will be the difference to Chelsea this season when it comes to our transitions from defence and attack. No longer will we have to sit and watch the team play the ball sideways or backwards on numerous occasions when there is a ball forward to be played as someone shows themselves to receive a pass.
The issue I have is Jorginho without the ball playing in the pivot role. From what we have seen in the first two games of the season, he gets about the midfield as I have said and is mobile in that role but he is not the best at the defensive side of the game. It’s one thing to shut people down and pressurise players into making mistakes in possession to win the ball back, but to actually make a challenge to win the ball, to win it and not leave yourself or our midfield exposed is something totally different. He is all about what he can offer you in that pivot position WITH the ball and NOT without it.
N’Golo Kante wasted as box-to-box midfielder.
I challenge any Chelsea fan to say that are comfortable with the fact that N’Golo Kante has been asked to play as a box-to-box midfielder in our new three-man midfield! Seeing him push forward and get on the end of crosses as he did with a header that went over the bar on Saturday just seems weird and almost out of character for me.
Since his arrival in the Premier League for Leicester in his first season and the two that have subsequently followed at Chelsea, N’Golo Kante has held the record for the most tackles in the Premier League which explains just how good he is in the defensive midfield position. If anything, and I have stated on here before, he is as good as – if not better than Claude Makelele because of the fact that he has boundless energy and is much more mobile.
At one stage on Saturday I looked to find Kante on the pitch and he was stuck out wide on the wing, out of the game and looking like a spare part as the ball was being played through the middle of midfield. He looked almost lost, fighting his natural instincts to maintain his position and in my view taking away the main part of his game.
N’Golo Kante is and will not be anywhere near as effective as he has been over the last three seasons by being asked to continue to play as a box-to-box midfielder. It’s a waste of god-given talent and it’s as simple as that!
As I have said, this is early days in the season as whole and under Maurizio Sarri’s reign at Chelsea but it’s important to be realistic and discuss these things rather than jump on the blinkered bandwagon at the moment.
I personally am excited about the standard/level of entertaining football we have the potential to play this year under the Italian because if we do click going forward then we will cause anyone problems whether that is Manchester City or Wolves.
I am just pointing out THREE reasons that I am personally concerned about our new style and the problems we WILL face against teams this season. I have no doubt in my mind that we will have major issues if we continue to allow space willingly out wide.