Chelsea are in for “problems” in the early months of the Maurizio Sarri era, according to… Maurizio Sarri.
The Blues’ new manager has only been in office since early July because of the drawn-out way predecessor Antonio Conte left the club, but must take his team to Huddersfield on Saturday for their first game of the Premier League season.
Sarri reckons it could take another eight weeks for the players to get properly used to the new ideas and tactics he has had to force-feed them with over a pre-season also affected by the World Cup not ending until July 15.
Asked to clarify what form these “problems” might take, the 59-year-old former Napoli coach answered: “The results.
“The performances in the first part of the season will not be in line with the potential of the squad.”
They are brave words for a new coach of Chelsea, who has seen two of his predecessors, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas, sacked after eight and nine months respectively by Abramovich, an owner not known for his patience.
But Sarri pointed to his late appointment and a chaotic pre-season as legitimate reasons why he should be granted time to get things right at Stamford Bridge.
The Italian said: “We are not at the top of our potential. I hope to be at the top of the potential of the squad in one or two months, but I don’t know.
“I hope that the second part of the season will be very good with a lot of points. In the first part I expect some problems on the results. Maybe the performances in the first part of the season will not be in line with the potential of the squad.
“The board know this.
“Next year, I will try and change pre-season completely — if I can. I arrived in the middle of July, so the problem was there. I had to accept it completely, but for the future, it would be better to change.”
Sarri is set to give new £71.6million world-record goalkeeping signing Kepa his debut at the John Smith’s Stadium. But his other new capture this week, on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic, is likely to have to wait.
The Italian’s style of quick-passing, high-pressure football became known as “Sarri-ball” at Napoli, where he led the club to two second place finishes in Serie A in three years.
To get that though, Chelsea fans need to be patient.
Sari said: “You have to wait for a couple of months. I don’t know exactly what Sarri-ball is. It’s not my definition.
“At Napoli, we played at great speed, moving the ball forward and back with continuity. It was fun for the supporters, and useful for results. We got 91 points last season. On 23 of the last 25 Serie A seasons, that was enough to win the championship. So it was a bit unlucky.
“I don’t know if we can play the same way in England. It depends on the characteristics of the Premier League and my players. I have to adapt myself.”
Scoring goals was a problem for Conte’s team last year – they managed only 62, the fewest among the Big Six – and they netted only three times in five warm-up games this summer.
Sarri warned his players: “The offensive phase may be a problem.
“We have to play at another speed. If we are able to do that, scoring will not be a problem. But at this speed, it may be.”
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