What we were made to believe by the press was that Sarriball is a system of play which deploys tactics to move the ball from defense to attack as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong; this was true with Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli and we saw how he started (of course, after losing the Community Shield to City) with 5 wins in the EPL, went on to beat Liverpool at Anfield in the Carabao Cup and went unbeaten for as many games in all competitions, before outsmarting Pep in a 2-0 victory against City 3 days after losing to Wolves. Sarriball was thriving so what has gone wrong?
Let me highlight some of the problems that Sarri inherited from Conte;
- Every top team in the EPL has a prolific striker, except Chelsea and this is public knowledge. They couldn’t find the right replacement for Costa and they were not willing to give Batshuayi a chance to prove he could score goals.
- Chelsea doesn’t have many creative midfielders. They failed to adequately plan for that part of the field, especially when Cesc lost all the juice in his legs.
- Willian is all run and step-overs, zero productivity (truth hurts).
- There are no rotational players who can step in to give the crucial players some minutes off to stay match ready.
People usually criticize Alonso for lack of pace but I honestly think he’s a top left back. There’s also a strong argument to say he performs better as a wing-back than a traditional left back … I won’t agree or disagree, because he’s been good this season. Then of course there’s David Luiz; he’s not bad either. If you judge him by what he was able to do against City in December then you’d have to agree he can be top with the right mentality. But I’ve been able to highlight 4 major problems, the top 2 teams in the EPL don’t have as many. So, can we hypothesize that Sarri inherited a team not capable of Sarriball? Probably.
Against Arsenal over the weekend he tried to replicate the tactics which won him the game against City, but Arsenal was fired up to avoid dropping more points. Chelsea started Hazard in the false 9 role again, with a bench which had Barkley, Giroud, Odoi, Christensen, Palmieri and Ampadu. At half time I wasn’t sure of who Chelsea could bring on to salvage anything from that game. After the game Sarri went on to question the mentality of his players and even said they were difficult to motivate.
One thing Sarriball has attempted to do (which it shouldn’t do) is to try and fit square pegs in round holes. I know Kovacic (from his days in Madrid) to be a defensive midfielder. He was mostly used as a replacement for Casemiro. Kante IS NOT an attacking midfielder either. The so called “heartbeat of Sarriball”, “the modern day Pirlo”, “the smooth midfield operator”, “the machine, the engine” (and all those fancy names they gave him) Jorginho, is struggling these days not because he’s not a good player, but because he’s in a midfield with 2 others who operate similarly to him. His primary role is to make the game simple and quickly transition play from the defensive half to the attacking areas; that means he is not to supposed to travel with the ball. The maestro of this type of role is Sergio Busquets.
To get Sarriball working again, Sarri should do the following;
- The transfer window is not closed yet. He should sign at least, one creative midfielder and a striker.
- He should give Loftus-Cheek the confidence to start. I think that boy is brilliant.
- He should allow N’Golo Baba Kante to sit in CDM and push Jorginho a bit forward to create or have a free role. He’s reiterated that that won’t happen so even though that can be a possible solution to his problems, he’s not going to consider it.
- Send Kovacic back to sender (I strongly believe Chelsea don’t need him).
- Play Hazard behind a striker or on the left wing. Hazard is excellent, but he’s not Messi (the master of all false 9s), though many want to make that comparison. Occasionally his brilliance and magic makes it seem that’s a position he can thrive in but the boy is struggling. His positional play has been very poor and the Sarriball can’t also find him in the right places.
- Bench Willian.
- Again, BENCH Willian.
- Work on the mentality of his players instead of criticizing them through translators.