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Chelsea: are the Blues ready for a title challenge under Maurizio Sarri?

It is rare that three teams are able to retain a 100% win record in the opening four gameweeks of a Premier League campaign. Chelsea are among those who have managed to do just that in the 2018/19 season, and Maurizio Sarri has certainly made an impression early on.

The 59-year-old had managed a hefty eighteen different clubs prior to his arrival in London, which is remarkably his first managerial job away from his native country of Italy. Despite never winning a major trophy as a manager, Sarri was given the Serie A Coach of the Year award two seasons ago while with Napoli. Despite his title-less life as a football manager, can he reach new heights in England and drive Chelsea to a Premier League title challenge?

The Italian has been praised in the past for implementing attractive attacking football at various clubs he has managed, with attention to detail at the forefront of this approach.

While under the reign of Sarri, Napoli netted a mouth-watering 251 goals in 114 games. Phenomenal. With the Blues netting ten goals after four games, the new boss has got his time in English football off to a similar start.

Sarri’s formula for success has been effectively transferred from his time at Napoli, and there are a number of Chelsea players that are analogous to those who played under him in Naples.

One key principle is direct forward passing, initiated by the defenders and central midfielders. The ability to meaningfully send the ball forward is an important part of Sarri’s philosophy, but the movement of the attacking players receiving the ball is just as crucial.

This could be the biggest factor in why Chelsea have begun the campaign with an impressive tally of goals. The players that Chelsea already have at their disposal share a likeness with Lorenzo Insigne and José Callejon of Napoli; their ability to cut inside and create space for themselves and their teammates is matched by Eden Hazard and Pedro, who have already scored from these kinds of situations this season.

The freedom to move horizontally in attack also allows defenders and midfielders to thread a pass through the gaps in the opposition, with confidence that the pass will reach a target – an important feature in Chelsea’s attacks.

Willian possesses a similar trait to Hazard and Pedro yet the Brazilian sometimes favours an early cross towards a target man as seen on various occasions already this season.

Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud are the target men Chelsea rely on, they allow an extra dimension to the long forward passes. Both attackers are tall in stature and present opportunities for lofted balls to be played forward if other avenues are blocked.

The Blues were perhaps overlooked in the pre-season conversations about title race candidates. Champions Manchester City and Liverpool seemed to dominate most people’s expectations of the top two spots come the end of the season.

However, Chelsea have an extremely strong squad to work with and although Maurizio Sarri may not yet have a major trophy under his belt, he has already shown that he certainly has the potential to grab some silverware with his new side.

He is no doubt an inspirational manager who has worked his way to the top through his keen eye for the tactical side of football.

After a three-year spell with his childhood idols Napoli, the Italian has taken on a new challenge away from his native country. A huge bonus to Sarri is the fact that Chelsea’s tougher fixtures seem to be fairly spaced out over the course of the season and with a fixture at home against Cardiff coming up after the international break, the Blues are heavily fancied to continue their 100% record and give them their best start to a league season since 2010.

Harry Mahon

90maat's team correspondent for Tottenham Hotspur, graduate of Loughborough University and current student at the University of Surrey.

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