Chelsea has moved for another Italian coach to replace Antonio Conte but what can fans expect from Maurizio Sarri both on and off the pitch?
The tradition of Italian coaches at Chelsea continues with Maurizio Sarri. After Gianluca Vialli, Claudio Ranieri, Roberto di Matteo, Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte – all fairly successful – it’s time for the very honest character and entertaining football of the former Napoli coach. ‘Coach’ rather than manager, as Sarri truly is someone who gets the best out of his players and coaches them. But will this mean silverware?
Sarri started off in the lower leagues in Italy, after his time working as a banker. His last season at Empoli made him famous nationwide, and was then chosen by Napoli to move on from Rafa Benitez and try and challenge Juventus to the title. In three seasons, Napoli went as close as ever to winning it, but their mental collapse – together with Juve’s tremendous strength – in the final days of the Serie A season getting in the way between a second spot and victory.
Hard work is his mantra. It’s a team of eleven players, not an individual game. Last pre-season at Napoli he decided not to go on a tour in order to work on a daily basis on his perfect team mechanisms. And indeed it worked out. For most of the season Napoli were ahead of Juventus and entertained everybody with their almost perfect Guardiola-esque football. Spectacular, and efficient.
They didn’t win the title by much, and it was down to a winning mentality and fatigue, as Juventus rotated many more players, whilst Sarri trusted his best 11-14 starting players and no more.
It will not be a huge change from Conte in the way the team is managed: a lot of hard work on the pitch. Less shouting, more talking, but a similar approach. Conte’s tactics are more direct, Sarri’s more possession-based. It can truly suit the current Chelsea side.
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Outside of the matches, expect someone who could come up with a headline every week. Sarri has no filters when talking: he has been accused of homophobia and sexism, as well as often using inappropriate language at press conferences. He is like this: direct, but not always politically correct. The feeling is he will tone this side of his character down in England, or he might struggle to last long in the Premier League.
As always, though, it will be the pitch that has the final say. Getting Chelsea back to the top four could already be considered a positive result, with a view to then strengthen the team, teach them his style and challenge for the title next season.
Chelsea fans should expect an exciting side to watch for sure. In terms of silverware, Sarri hasn’t won anything yet, and this spell in the Premier League will also show his personal growth in terms of that. At Napoli his beautiful style of football got him very close to the title, at Chelsea he will be hoping to have an exciting team, but also make the final step towards glory.