Maurizio Sarri made his Premier League bow with Chelsea as the Blues strolled to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Huddersfield Town. The win sets the tone for the season for Sarri’s team. Chelsea is expected to challenge for the league title this term after last season’s disappointment under Antonio Conte.
Sarri made a sensational move to Chelsea on the back of a strong showing in Italy as his Napoli side played exciting football and pushed Juventus all the way in the title race. Having narrowly missed out on the Scudetto in his third year in charge, the former banker was ready for a new challenge.
Chelsea on their part were in the market for a new manager as has become the club’s way of not sticking to a gaffer for long. Despite winning the league title in his first season at the club and adding the FA Cup to it in his second year with the club, Conte was let go with a year left on his contract.
His successor was left with a huge job on his hands. Having failed to achieve a top-four finish and qualify for the Champions League, the club must not only make it this time but also challenge for the title.
The Italian has famously never won a trophy in his career but relishes the chance to end the drought with the 2017 champions. He failed to grab the first opportunity to win silverware as Chelsea fell 2-0 to reigning champions Manchester City in the Community Shield.
However, the club’s performance in the first league match of the season showed a lot of promise.
Here are five revelations from the team’s first Premier League match under the new boss.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois won’t be missed
Chelsea were reluctant to let go of the Belgian shot-stopper as he has been a key figure at the club since returning from Atletico Madrid in 2014. But Courtois had long made his intention to return to Madrid as Real Madrid goalkeeper known to the club. Chelsea were finally forced to let him go. With one year left on his contract, the club risked losing him on a free at the end of the season.
The club, therefore, moved swiftly before the close of the transfer window to bring in Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga as his replacement. Courtois was allowed to seal a move to Madrid for £35 million while Chelsea paid a world record £71.8 million for their new keeper.
The Spanish goalie who was also targeted by Real Madrid has made 53 appearances in the last two seasons for the La Liga side. He is also Spain’s second choice keeper behind Manchester United’s David De Gea.
With lightning-fast reflexes, calmness even under pressure and ability to make close-range stops, the 23-year-old will be an important asset for the club for many years to come.
Jorginho will be a hit
The Brazilian-born Italian international turned down a move to join Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City preferring instead to follow his boss to Chelsea. At Napoli, the midfielder was one of the best players in Serie A. He gave the Chelsea faithful a glimpse into what to expect with a sublime performance against Huddersfield which was capped off with a cheeky penalty that got the media raving.
A slick passer of the ball that can unlock any defence while also contributing his fair share in defensive duties, Chelsea have got a player that will quickly translate Sarri’s philosophy to his teammates on the pitch.
Change in Chelsea’s defence line
Antonio Conte preferred a three-man back line that easily turned into a five-man defence when the team was defending. During the attack, the left and right back transitioned into wingers. Sarri, on the other hand, prefers a back four in a 4-3-3 system.
The new setup favours a ball-carrying defender like David Luiz, who has expressed his joy in making a return to the team after having been frozen out by Conte. His partner was Rudiger while Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta played in left and right back respectively.
N’golo Kante, Jorginho and Ross Barkley controlled the midfield. The front three consisted of Alvaro Morata flanked by Willian and Pedro Rodriguez.
Attack is the name of the game
Sarri made a name for himself in Italy as an attack-minded coach. That is not about to change as Chelsea mounted continuous pressure on the opponents from the start of the game until the end. The 2016/17 Serie, A manager of the year, favours an attacking style of play that overloads the opponent’s half of the field until they collapse under pressure.
Using this style, he pushed Juventus to the brink finishing second on the table twice in his three seasons with Napoli.
A top-four finish is realisable
It’s no secret that Chelsea want to play in the Champions League. A top-four finish is important to the club even if their chain-smoking manager does not succeed in winning the league title in his first season in charge. Based on the performance of the team in the first league match of the campaign, a comprehensive win with three goals and a clean sheet away suggests a top-four finish can be achieved this term.