Hiring Maurizio Sarri would merely be the first step towards Chelsea re-creating Napoli’s style of play. The club would need to support him in the transfer market far more than they did Antonio Conte.
Chelsea and Manchester City are currently two vastly different clubs. In Manchester, Pep Guardiola has total control. From transfer targets to the length of the grass at the Etihad, the man has a say in everything.
Chelsea run things a bit differently. As Antonio Conte found out, much to his displeasure, the manager does not run the club. Conte was increasingly frustrated as he was unable to dictate who the club targeted in the transfer market. This left him with players he did not believe could carry out his demands. If Chelsea are to appoint Maurizio Sarri, they cannot repeat this mistake
Sarri has a very clear vision about how his teams should play football. His Napoli side were one of the best to watch in Europe last season. They pressed high when they did not have the ball, and played quickly and incisively when they did.
Their vibrant style of play led to goals – a lot of them. Napoli scored 77 goals in the 2017/18 season (15 more than Chelsea), despite playing in a historically low-scoring league. This prospect will rightly have Chelsea fans licking their lips in anticipation. But merely appointing Sarri will not turn Chelsea into Napoli overnight.
Chelsea’s current squad is not fit to play the sort of football Sarri desires. First, Napoli’s preferred fullbacks – Faouzi Ghoulam and Elseid Hysaj – tend to bomb forward and overlap the wingers. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses, on the other hand, are not conventional full-backs. Whilst they were effective as wing-backs, they likely could not fulfill this role.
Emerson is somewhat of an unknown entity but has the potential to play his part. Cesar Azpilicueta can play anywhere along the back line, but he too is not ideal for this system.
If anyone doubts how important fullbacks can be for a system, Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph at Manchester City make the ultimate case. Chelsea would certainly need to address this issue.
Second, Chelsea’s attack may be sufficient, but the current set of midfielders do not meet Sarri’s criteria. Napoli religiously stuck to a three-man midfield last season. Jorginho operated at the base of the trident. He controlled the tempo of matches, often dropping between the two centre backs to start attacks.
The preferred pairing in front of him was Marek Hamsik and Allan. Sarri expected Hamsik to contribute to attacks, and he did en route to seven league goals. Allan was an influence all over the pitch, a classic box-to-box midfielder.
If Sarri is to succeed at Chelsea he will require midfielders who can effectively carry out these jobs. Only N’Golo Kante would be a perfect fit. He could comfortably play the box-to-box role. Cesc Fabregas can dictate the tempo of matches, but his best days are behind him. He would not be an ideal fit due to his low mobility. The rest of Chelsea’s midfielders are much more suited to the kind of football you would expect from a Antonio Conte or Jose Mourinho team.
The midfield does not need a complete overhaul. Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are both young enough to adapt and have the potential to be important. However, if Chelsea do not seek out players more suited to Sarri’s system, they risk becoming a team of square pegs in round holes.
The perfect example to learn from are Manchester City. After an underwhelming first season the club fully bought into Pep Guardiola’s vision. They bought the players necessary to play his brand of football, and we all know the result.
If Chelsea do the same with Maurizio Sarri we could be about to witness something very special. If not, the team will lack an identity and the result could spell serious trouble for the club.
PRIDE OF LONDON