Why Maurizio Sarri can guide Chelsea to Premier League glory this season
Maurizio Sarri took time to arrive at Chelsea but fortunately for the fans, he has not taken time to win games. The Blues have now recorded consecutive victories in their opening games against Huddersfield Town and Arsenal.
After a lacklustre campaign under Antonio Conte, Chelsea look set for redemption under Sarri this term. But how far can they go? Can Sarri pull off a Conte and win the title in his first-ever season with the club?
The former Napoli boss is well-known for his attacking system. Back at Napoli, Sarri often cut a distinctive figure on the football field. With his trademark tracksuits and never-ending cigarettes, the Italian manager did the unthinkable and got very close to winning the Serie A with Napoli last season.
An eleventh-hour hiccup prevented them from winning the title, however, and Juventus emerged victorious at the end. But to even get close to ending Juve’s stronghold on the Italian top-flight honour is quite commendable.
At Chelsea, Sarri has his work cut out for him. He has certainly inherited a relatively strong squad but as was evident against Huddersfield and Arsenal, the club must work towards improving certain areas.
Given their attacking strength and midfield power, Chelsea have all the ingredients required to win the Premier League this time around. But one department that continues to decline is their defence.
Sarri’s arrival has also brought about a significant change to the club’s backline. Earlier under Conte, Chelsea played a three-man backline with Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses playing as explosive wing-backs.
But in a four-man defence, Alonso struggles to a certain extent. He was absolutely fantastic against Arsenal and his attacking power is unquestionable but when it comes to tracking back and defending, Alonso often gets caught up, leaving the backline exposed.
Unlike the last two seasons, Chelsea play with two centre-backs now. And as things stand, their centre-back options lack the pace and stamina to cover a lot of ground. Hence, if either Alonso or Azpilicueta (who now plays at right-back) were to venture forward and fail to fall back when needed, it would hardly take seconds for the opposition to capitalise.
The Blues were lucky enough to face Huddersfield in their first game since the Terriers barely looked imposing. But against Arsenal, this weakness was exposed as the Gunners scored two quick-fire goals to destroy Chelsea’s two-goal lead.
With the kind of bench strength Chelsea have in their attack and midfield departments, the club must work towards tightening their backline. But with the kind of players and the manager they have at their disposal, this could just end up being Chelsea’s year.