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SARRI-BALL

What will Chelsea look like under the chain-smoking ex-banker Maurizio Sarri?

Expect intense pressure and complete belief in playing out of the back if Maurizio Sarri takes over Chelsea

Any manager who demands their own smoking area in opposition dressing rooms is more than welcome in the Premier League.

And so it is that we welcome Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea. We’re being quite presumptuous here but Carlo Ancelotti’s move to Napoli has cleared the way for Sarri to end up on the King’s Road.

It’s a, err… banker.

As a chain-smoking former banker who only took up full-time coaching at the age of 40, Sarri is already an interesting character.


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Not a vape in sight

AFP - Getty
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Not a vape in sight

That’s before we’ve even got to Sarri-ball and the Naples native’s dedication to playing out of the back.

Napoli might not have lifted the Serie A title this season but they won the hearts and minds of fans worldwide with weekly examples of football to make even Pep Guardiola blush.

So what can Chelsea expect from the incoming Sarrismo revolution?

Get that tar in there son

Getty - Contributor
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Get that tar in there son

He’s going to love Andreas Christensen

Looking at the 6ft 4in defensive giant of a man that is Kalidou Koulibaly you don’t instantly think pass-master.

But only Jorginho- you’ll hear from him later- made more passes in the league per game than Koulibaly.

Apologies for getting all statistical on you but Koulibaly averaged 85.2 passes every 90 minutes with a success rate of 91.2%.

That trumps anything in Chelsea’s current squad under Antonio Conte, in which Cesar Azpilicueta was top of the passers with a paltry 74.6 per game.

But all that should change when Sarri gets his Marlboro Red stained hands on Christensen.

Like Koulibaly, Christensen’s appearance is slightly ungainly, however under the bonnet sits a supremely technical defender with the confidence to take the ball anywhere at the back.

With the increasingly steady Antonio Rudiger also at his disposal Sarri has two centre-backs to orchestrate his attacks.

Could this be the end for Marcos Alonso?

Sarri favoured four at the back at both Napoli and Empoli, whom he managed for three years prior to taking the job in Naples.

Given Azpilicueta borders on OCD when it comes to how consistent his performances are you’d expect him to shuffle from third centre-back to right-back.

But Marcos Alonso could be left in the cold as he’s hardly played in a back four since moving back to England, and when he has he’s looked uncomfortable.

Sarri has coached full-backs Elseid Hysaj and Mario Rui at both Empoli and Napoli. Three’s a charm.

Is it too late now to say Sarri?

REUTERS
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Is it too late now to say Sarri?

A reprieve for Cesc

Conte’s love of a runner in midfield often saw Cesc Fabregas dropped for big games.

In an ideal world Sarri would probably bring the metronomic Jorginho with him from Napoli to anchor his midfield, but it appears the passing fiend is on his way to Man City.

He should be able to get a tune out of Fabregas though. What he lacks in tracking the opposition he more than makes up for with his ability to put the ball where he pleases with a blindfold on.

Sarri flanked Jorginho with two mobile midfielders at Napoli, with N’Golo Kante a more than able substitution for Allan.

What he’ll do with the other spot, in which Marek Hamsik operated at Napoli, is interesting.

Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley both possess the mix of athletic ability and technical capabilities to grow into the role, but neither have shone at Chelsea yet.

So Sarri must be tempted to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek into the fold, given he’s got the feet of a no.10 with the frame of a centre-back and a very welcome dash of on-pitch arrogance to boot.

Incoming 30-goal season for Eden Hazard

Dries Mertens was trundling along as an electric if inconsistent Serie A winger in Serie A until Sarri got hold of him and converted him into one of Europe’s best strikers.

Whereas Conte seemingly played Hazard in a false 9 role as punishment, knowing he wouldn’t touch the ball all game, the prospect of the Belgian doing the same under Sarri is intriguing.

Sarri is a man who was still getting double figures from former Middlesbrough striker Massimo Maccarone as recently as 2015.

That same Maccarone scored 18 league goals in five seasons on Teesside between 2002 and 2007.

It’s safe to say he gets the best out of his front men.

Two bona fide Premier League icons

PA:Press Association
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Two bona fide Premier League icons

On a wing and a prayer

Jose Callejon and Lorezno Insigne had two very different roles as Sarri’s wingers at Napoli.

Insigne cut in from the left to operate as a playmaker, whereas Callejon was forever running in behind and looking to stretch the defence.

Pedro is made for Insigne’s role, but if Sarri does decide to use Hazard as a striker then the left playmaking spot is up for grabs.

Willian is the obvious choice but if Callum Hudson-Odoi’s brief cameos are anything to go by then he should be fast tracked into the starting XI.

Like Insigne, Hudson-Odoi is a product of the academy which should, in theory, mean he gets more leeway from the fans when it doesn’t quite go right.

It’s about time Chelsea made use of their endless supply of future Vitesse loanees.