Sarri is attempting to stamp his mark on a group of players he has worked with for less than a month. Having succeeded Antonio Conte, the 59-year-old is aiming to introduce the style and methods he employed successfully at Napoli, bringing him to the attention of the Chelsea board, but acknowledges the change in approach will take time.
Last Sunday’s Community Shield defeat to Manchester City confirmed the gap between Sarri’s side and Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions heading into the new season, with the Italian acknowledging the progress his side still had to make. He is confident he can reshape the group of players that won the title two years ago but were unimpressive for long periods of last season as they fell to fifth. Nonetheless, Sarri has warned there is no quick fix.
“For sure, in this moment, we are not at the top of our potential,” said the Chelsea head coach. “I hope to be at the top of the potential of the squad in one or two months, but I don’t know. Sure now, we are not at the top.”
The Blues start the season with a trip to Huddersfield Town where Sarri will hope his new players can show signs of the promise of things to come. “I hope that the second part of the season, for us, will be very good with a lot of points,’ he said. “I expect in the first part of the season some problems.”
What might those problems be? “On the results,” he added. ‘Maybe the performances in the first part of the season will not be in line with the potential of the squad.”
Conte was the latest manager to discover that demands are high and patience levels often low at Stamford Bridge but Sarri insists the club’s board are well aware of the task that lies in front of him. “They know it,” he said. “They know it very well. I think you have to wait for a couple of months. You have to wait.”
That task is to get the squad accustomed to the requirements of the new head coach’s approach, known as ‘Sarri-ball’ when he was in Serie A. “I don’t know (what it is) exactly,” he said. “It’s not my definition. I don’t know. In Naples we played at great speed, ball forward, ball back, with continuity, with great speed with the strikers. So it was fun for the supporters. And useful for the results, I think. We made the record of the club in the first, in the second, in the third year. Ninety-one points in the last season. On 23 of the last 25 Serie A (seasons), 91 points was enough to win it. So it was a bit unlucky, I think.”
Sarri acknowledges it may not just be the players who have to adapt to a new environment. “I don’t know (if you can play the same way in England),” he said. “It depends on the characteristics of the Premier League and of my players. I have to adapt myself on the characteristics of the players, and not vice versa.”
He added: “We have to play at another speed. The offensive phase may be problem at this speed. If we are able to play at another speed, maybe scoring will not be a problem for us. But at this moment, at this current speed, it may be a problem. The players in this moment need to think what to do too much, and so the ball is not moved at the right speed, material and mental, at this moment. They have to think too much.”
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