The cause of Chelsea FC’s problems this season



During the summer transfer window, London’s Chelsea FC chose to relieve Antonio Conte of his managerial duties and brought in Maurizio Sarri from Napoli. The Italian tactician brought his own brand of football to Italy during his tenure in Naples, known as “Sarri-ball”, and produced some of the most beautiful football in Europe.

The way Sarri-ball works is quite simple. The defenders win the ball and give the ball to the regista, or the deep-lying playmaker, and from there the regista would supply the more attacking-minded midfielders or forwards with passes that allow opportunities to overload their opponents in the attacking third.

During his move to London, he brought along Jorge Luiz Frello Filho, better known as Jorginho. The Brazilian midfielder played in the regista role of Sarri’s system. While not being the fastest or most athletic of midfielders, he could dictate the tempo of the game and provide the “second assist” pass that led to many of Napoli’s goals.

So with such a great style of play and his most important player, where has it all gone wrong for Chelsea in the 2018-2019 campaign?

It’s simple. The Premier League is not the Serie A. The Serie A promotes a much slower, controlled style of play, which is why Sarri’s tactics were so effective in Italy. His electric front three of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, and Jose Callejon were too much to contain for the majority of defenders in the league. Jorginho used his vision and impeccable passing accuracy to spark lightning-quick counter attacks with passes behind the defensive line to one of Napoli’s attackers. Now I will explain why this doesn’t work in the Premier League.

The Premier League is played at a much faster pace than the Serie A and PL defenders are more physically equipped to deal with the type of passes that Sarri’s system promotes.

Despite this, Sarri refuses to change his tactics and he continues to use the same system in every game and at this point, every team in the Premier League knows exactly how to play against his system.

The most controversial part of his system is that he plays World Cup winning defensive midfielder N’golo Kante in an attacking role rather than his typical defensive one. Kante is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. Why? Because he does his job. He pressures, he wins the ball, and he keeps things simple. He doesn’t aim to score goals, or play killer passes through the heart of his opposition’s defense. He defends, and this is what Sarri’s system is lacking.

Jorginho is a brilliant deep-lying playmaker, anyone can see that. What everyone can also see is that he lacks the physicality, speed, and defensive qualities necessary to be a successful defensive midfielder in the Premier League. Now here’s what needs to be done in order for Chelsea to get themselves back into the title race.

Swap N’golo Kante and Jorginho. Let Jorginho play a bit further forward where he can make his penetrating passes and dictate the attacking side of the game, he could even be given the positional freedom of a #10 and drift across the pitch providing wide and through passes which will inevitably create more goalscoring opportunities for the blues. There is nothing to be said about N’golo Kante, because he knows his position better than any other player in world football. He had great success there in the last two seasons before Sarri, so why the Italian would ever change his position, I have no idea.

Chelsea do not need to make any new signings, or change their formation at all. Maurizio Sarri simply needs to understand that he is the reason for Chelsea’s failure and adapt his style of play to the Premier League, not the other way around.