Maurizio Sarri needs ‘a couple of months’ to impose his style at Chelsea
Maurizio Sarri warned that it may take “a couple of months” to implement his style of football at Chelsea, adding that he is expecting his team to encounter problems in the first half of the season.
Chelsea begin the new Premier League campaign away to Huddersfield Town on Saturday, less than a month after Sarri was officially appointed on a three-year contract to succeed the sacked Antonio Conte.
Sarri has only been able to work with the full Chelsea first-team squad this week, as key players Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante were among those granted three weeks off to recover from their World Cup exertions.
Two of Chelsea’s summer signings — club-record purchase Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid loanee Mateo Kovacic — only arrived at Cobham on Wednesday, and Sarri admitted that he will need more time to get his new players up to speed with his ideas.
“For sure at this moment, we are not at the top of our potential,” he said. “We did a preseason… what can I say… unusual, maybe. So now we are not at the top. I hope to be at the top of the potential of the squad in one or two months, but I don’t know.
“I hope that the second part of the season, for us, will be very good with a lot of points. I expect in the first part of the season some problems.”
Asked what problems he expects to face, Sarri replied: “On the results. Maybe the performances in the first part of the season will not be in line with the potential of the squad. Maybe, in the first part.
“I think you have to wait [to see ‘Sarri-ball’] for a couple of months. You have to wait.”
Goalscoring was a persistent issue for Chelsea under Conte last season and it has proven so again this summer, with Alvaro Morata failing to find the net in any of the Blues’ friendlies as he battles to rediscover his confidence.
The thrilling football played by his Napoli team has raised hopes that Sarri alone can increase Chelsea’s goal threat with stylistic changes, but he pointed out that his new players must adapt to making faster decisions on the pitch if that is to be the case.
“We have to play at another speed,” he insisted. “The offensive phase may be a problem at this speed. If we are able to play at another speed, maybe scoring will not be a problem for us. But at this moment, at this current speed, it may be a problem.
“The players in this moment need to think [about] what to do too much, and so the ball is not moved at the right speed, material and mental, at this moment. They have to think too much.”
Asked if he is confident that he can replicate the football that Napoli played at Chelsea, Sarri replied: “I don’t know. It depends on the characteristics of the Premier League and of my players. I have to adapt myself [to] the characteristics of the players, and not vice versa.”
Sarri had been in his new job just four days when Chelsea travelled to Western Australia for a friendly against Perth Glory, before honouring their International Champions Cup commitments with matches against Inter, Arsenal and Lyon as well as facing Manchester City in the Community Shield in a heavily compressed preseason.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Chelsea will liaise heavily with Sarri before finalising their plans for next summer. Asked how much he would change preseason, Sarri said: “Completely, I think. If I can… completely. I don’t know. I arrived in the middle of July, so the problem was there. I have to accept it completely, but I think, for the future, it will be better to change it.
“But I think that my perfect programme of preseason is not completely in line with the programme of the club. So we have to arrive at a compromise.”