Although he may not be able to smoke on the touchline, there’s no doubt that Maurizio Sarri will bring something different to Stamford Bridge. The way he has conducted Napoli to an incredibly respectable second place in the Italian First Divison has certainly opened the eyes of futbolistas all over Europe and now with a switch of scenery on the horizon, we look at how he will try to revolutionise Chelsea.
There is nothing we like more than when a manager defies the stereotypes. Sarri could be described as the pioneer of successful non-footballer managers, with Julian Naglesmann and Domenico Tedesco from Hoffenheim (Soon to be RB Lepizig) and Schalke now following suit. Although Maurizio may have dabbled in a few amateur leagues, he was always destined to manage.
A well-travelled banker till he was 40, Sarri’s progression into the football world was late, but once he got his foot in the door, he was there to stay. The miracles performed at semi-professional side Sangionavannese led Sarri to his first professional management job at Serie B side Pescara in 2005. Despite the entertaining football, results were not following and he left Pescara a year later. Sarri dropped back down into the semi-professional scene again, just waiting for his chance…
It was with Serie B side Empoli where Maurizio tasted his first success. A midtable side, Sarri took them up in second place in the 2013/14 season. Not only that, but he kept them afloat in the following season, despite being favourites for relegation. That’s when Napoli began to take an interest. Being born in Naples, when the offer came along Sarri couldn’t turn it down and he took the reins immediately at the start of the 2015 season.
How Does He Set Up?
A rather simple 4-3-3 is the cornerstone of the Italian’s success, allowing fluidity, especially in that front three of Insigne, Callejón and the Belgian Dries Mertens. When goalkeeper Pepe Reina has had the ball for the Partenopei, the fluidity is the same. The team pushes up, the centre backs splitting wide and Jorginho often comes in as a third centre back to collect the ball in the middle. This creates triangles all the way up the pitch, with the full-backs Hysaj and Ghoulam connecting with their respective central midfielder and forward. This makes Napoli a team hard to keep a track of when on the ball and gives them the ability to split teams open in a matter of seconds. What has been special about Sarri is the way in which he utilises certain players for certain roles, evident in that midfield three.
The all-rounder Jorginho sits deepest in a pivot, setting the tempo for the game with his incredible range of passing as well as his defensive prowess. Then there is the Brazilian Allan. Even at only 5ft 9in, the box-to-box midfielder gets stuck in whilst averaging only a foul a game. This efficiency in defence allows the game to flow, giving momentum for the forwards. Don’t make the mistake thinking Allan won’t contribute going up the pitch. Directly involved in 10 goals from 34 games is not bad for a man often attributed with defensive duties. With Jorginho possibly joining Sarri at Chelsea, a similar set up is certainly possible, especially with the midfield dynamo that is Ngolo Kanté.
The magisterial Slovakian deserves his own sub-heading. Deployed as a typical number 10, Hamšík usually finds himself playing as a shadow striker, connecting José Callejón to Lorenzo Insigne whilst also feeding the goalscoring machine that is Dries Mertens. Now into his 30’s, Hamšík is at the peak of his powers and this has shown, creating an average of over 1.5 goalscoring chances a game (Squawka). With the end of his career fast approaching, Marek Hamšík has Sarri to thank for his evolution into one of Italy’s, if not Europe’s top midfielders.
There is the likelihood that once Maurizio Sarri steps onto Cobham, he will try to utilise Belgian genius Eden Hazard in a similar way to Hamsik, picking up the balls in the half spaces before driving forward, playing defence-splitting passes. This emphasis on attacking play will certainly get Stamford Bridge on their feet, something that doesn’t always happen, with the managerial choices of defensive-minded Mourinho and Conte over the past few seasons.
The acquisition of Sarri by Chelsea is certainly intriguing and could spark a new spell of creative, attacking football that the Chelsea faithful deserve.