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Blues Smoking But Not Hot Enough

Maurizio Sarri is the 14th Chelsea manager of Roman Abrahamovich's reign at Stamford Bridge(if you count Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink's two stints each separately)and the fourth Italian in the same period. This goes on to demonstrate the kind of pressure that comes with managing the blues.
Sarri comes in with a big reputation having finished second only to a brilliant Juventus and playing a devastating high pressing possession football christened 'Sarriball'. However, as most of his predecessors would discover, billionaires are an impatient lot and Abrahamovich is no exception; they will want to watch a wildebeest migration in February or a coconut tree in the Rift Valley. Simply put, winning trophies is no longer food enough at Chelsea, it has to be consistent and with some chutzpah.         
At Napoli, Sarri got the best out of the players employing a fluid 4 3 3 with Jorginho whom he brought along to Stamford Bridge calmly dictating the pace as a deep lying playmaker. It is too early to predict whether Sarriball will also follow. While Jorginho is expected to slot into the midfield, Ngolo Kanté, he may have to play along another player with similar quality putting in tackles and breaking the opponents which could limit their creativity. A little further forward, Cesc Fabregas is not growing any younger and Loftus Cheek is yet to hold down a place of his own.                     
Sarri liked to use marauding wing backs up the field with his wingers coming inside mutating into a 3 4 3 that Chelsea players are only too familiar with. Zapacosta or Azpilicueta (no pun intended) or Marcos Alonso would flourish in such conditions yet there is the not so small matter upfront which must be having the Italian tactician puffing literally. Alvaro Moratta took the league by storm earlier last season but the goals dried up too soon. Besides, the Spaniard seems too accustomed to waiting for the final pass or cross as opposed to how Sarri worked with Mertens who almost played as a second striker often using his clever movement to create the spaces for the Hamsik and Insigné. Olivier Giroud is clearly all too similar to Moratta so Sarri would probably have to try Michy Batshuayi who fell out of favour last season and was consequently loaned out to Borussia Dortmund in the second half of last season. Pedro is also a viable option especially with his pace and the fact than Sarri converted Mertens into a striker from a similar position to the the Spaniard. 

Further downfield, Thibaut Courtois is leaving for Real so Chelsea will hope the not so green Robert Green and their most recent aquisittion Kepa Arrizabalaga will suffice. Matteo Kovacic arriving on loan from European Champions Real Madrid will mean enough cover in midfield but Sarri will be more worried about the defence as Rudiger and David Luiz were constantly left open against Man City in the community shield, especially when the forwards tried to press. Christensen shone for them at the heart of defense last season albeit in a different formation and they will be hoping he picks up from where he left more so after great performances in Russia. 
Man City  surprised Chelsea on Sunday playing a lower line while forcing Jorginho into making mistakes - a template most premier league teams are likely to follow though it can be argued that few would replicate it with such guardiolasque precision. 

KEY PLAYERS
Eden Hazard and Willian have the technical ability to play a good mix of Sarriball while Jorginho's ability to dictate pace from deep will be key when they build from deep. Young prodigy Callum Hudson-Odoi should get a chance to impress after an excellent pre-season.

VERDICT:
Sarri's possession football will certainly be a breath of fresh air from Conté's rigid defense oriented tactics and a formation that many players didn't look comfortable with. He will get the best out of a team which seemed to lack confidence at some stage last season though I think they would have done themselves a big favour if they had brought a complete striker.
With the class of Liverpool and Man City, combined with the goings on in North London and the unpredictability of the lower sides. Sarri and his team should be glad with a place in the top four given his late arrival. Winning the league while introducing a new style of play will be a delicate balancing act. 

Eden Hazard