Maurizio Sarri’s first season at Chelsea is almost over, so what has he done?
While there’s been moments this season where the Italian’s system has been questioned and some of his decisions have been critisied – not least because he’s consistently opted to field N’Golo Kante out of position – it’s more-or-less a job molto bene for the former Napoli boss.
A guaranteed place in next season’s Champions League, a possible place in the Europa League final, a valiant penalty shootout defeat in the Carabao Cup final and, perhaps most importantly, a decent few run-outs for Chelsea’s brightest academy prospects.
Yes, that’s right.
One of the biggest issues surrounding Sarri’s first season at the club has been his lack of flexibility around his player selections and stubbornness concerning certain names – most notably his decision to constantly overlook the super-talented Callum Hudson-Odoi earlier in the campaign.
But in recent months, he’s started to soften towards the Blues youngsters and he’s gradually given more game-time to the likes of Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, giving his team some much-needed freshness as a result.
In fact, according to a stat that’s been floating around Reddit today, Sarri has given 1908 minutes to Chelsea academy players this season – which is more than any other manager in the Roman Abrahamovic era, if you don’t include John Terry’s minutes.
Although Hudson-Odoi’s season has been cruelly ended by an Achilles injury, the 18-year-old’s success has been one of the real highlights of Sarri’s first year abroad.
Four goals and two assists in the Europa League and a first England cap should be enough to please the teenager, although just under 400 minutes in the Premier League will be somewhat frustrating.
Loftus-Cheek has been the real standout starlet, often coming to his club’s rescue from the midfield by netting nine goals and five assists in all competitions – averaging a goal or assist every 112 minutes in the Premier League.
After his starring role in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Watford on Sunday, Sarri said that Loftus-Cheek “can be one of Europe’s best players” – perhaps hinting at a bigger role at the club next season.
With the Blues set for a transfer ban this summer, it looks as if the club’s army of loaned-out youngsters may return to the club with one eye on a place in the first-team squad.
The likes of Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Mason Mount could be in good hands with Sarri at the helm.
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