Student writer Chris Lierly discusses Chelsea, Coach Sarri and their relationship to the Premier League.
The Summer of 2018 gave us a litany of captivating storylines before, during and after the World Cup. The Sarri-Chelsea saga, however, begins during the 2017-18 Premier League season. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had a strenuous relationship with the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, ever since he arrived in London in 2016. Conte’s winning of the Premier League in the 2015-16 campaign and the Football Association Cup the next year proved that the man could win, but success wouldn’t save Conte’s job. His volatile personality created an unpredictable atmosphere at the club. Pair that with a style of play that basically used five defenders and it wasn’t hard for Abramovich to let the Italian manager go.
Chelsea officially parted ways with Conte on July 13, 2018, but when the headline broke, it was one of the least surprising stories imaginable. The public knew that Conte was on the way out for some time, and surprisingly, just about everyone knew who would be replacing him. On the day after Conte’s sacking, Chelsea supporters got the name they had been waiting months to hear: Maurizio Sarri.
Sarri was leaving Napoli, the football club of Naples, Italy, where he was born. He won Serie A (Italy’s top tier Soccer League) Manager of the Year award in 2017 after bringing Napoli within four points of powerhouse, and near perennial title winner, Juventus. It was announced shortly after his departure that former Bayern Munich and Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti would fill the same role at Napoli after Sarri’s departure.
Sarri managed Napoli since 2015 and promised to bring the same pass-heavy style that he used in the Italian Serie A to the Premier League. He also brought Napoli midfielder Jorginho with him and attempted to buy more of his former players before Napoli shut the other transfers down. Those transfers would’ve helped Sarri more quickly integrate his system in London with a mix of players new to the system and those already accustomed to it. However, with the quality of players that Chelsea has, Sarri will likely find an inventive way to bring what has been dubbed “Sarri-Ball” to England.
Chelsea’s summer was an eventful one, manager change aside, that involved a major buy, a major sell and two Blues becoming World Cup champions. As we saw, Joringho followed his manager Maurizio Sarri to Stamford Bridge shortly after the manager’s move was announced. The big loss for Chelsea and Abramovich, however, was the selling of Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to Spanish giants Real Madrid. In the same summer that they reinforced their midfield, Chelsea was also forced to look at buying a younger keeper to replace Courtois. With Joringho now in the mid, he will play alongside one of the world’s best:N’golo Kante. Kante and striker Olivier Giroud both return to the new Sarri led Chelsea after winning the World Cup with France’s national team.
This rearrangement of the squad, along with the form that the French players and superstar Eden Hazard had in the World Cup, promises to make Chelsea’s season a successful one. Sarri’s unique system, which remains defensive while moving the ball around to create opportunities, will take some time to get used to for both the fans and players. From the first couple of games, though, Chelsea looks dangerous, and the more they get set into the system, the scarier they’ll look. With the new life Sarri’s given the squad, Chelsea have a chance to challenge both Man City and Liverpool as contenders for a Premier League that could establish Sarri as a world-class manager and his system as a staple of European football.