Maurizio Sarri has brought a lot of change to Chelsea already this season, both on the pitch and off of it, but with the Premier League season now underway, most fans are only concerned about what’s happening on the bladed grass. Fortunately, it’s been a great season so far the Blues, with the Italian’s style of football transitioning quickly and painlessly onto his players.
Indeed, players both new and old are impressing so far, but that gives the Italian a bit of a conundrum when it comes to selecting his best team. He’s been able to bring in a few new faces, most notably Kepa Arrizabalaga, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, all of whom have already made an impact in London.
Chelsea’s team, then, is beginning to look very different to how it did last season, both in terms of the personnel and the way that the team is set up. That said, whilst only a few weeks have passed in the Premier League, it’s quickly becoming clear how the Blues should be lining up for much of the campaign.
So, who would be included in Chelsea’s best XI this season? Who will Sarri continue to pick week-in-week-out? Let’s take a look…
Starting with the formation, it’s very different from that which Antonio Conte utilised last term. Conte utilised a system favouring five defenders, with three central defenders tied together by two wing-backs. That generally led to a system based heavily on counter-attacking football and width. Under Sarri, though that has changed. He’s reverted back to a four-man defensive system, which allows more balance further up the field. The 4-3-3 system has been used less in recent years, but Sarri likes it – and that allows him to have a mix of defensive and offensive midfielders, with three natural attackers ahead of them and four natural defenders behind them.
In goal, new signing Kepa Arrizabalaga has started every league game since his arrival, and he’s looked good. Thibaut Courtois’ shoes are big, and it was never going to be easy to fill them. That said, he looks comfortable with the ball at his feet, and he’s yet to make any glaring errors. He’s only young, too, and so you’d expect him to get better over the coming months and years.
In defence, Marcos Alonso undoubtedly needs to retain his place. He’s already continued his impressive scoring record in the English top flight, and though he’s better suited to a wing-back role, he has adjusted well to a system requiring more defensive work. That side of his game is actually very underrated, and he’s been comfortable thus far. On the right-hand side, Cesar Azpilicueta has changed his position again – this time reverting back to his more natural right-back role. He’s not as offensive as Marcos Alonso, but that works well for the Blues – as he can sit back and make the defence more of a three-man system when Alonso bombs forward. In between, Antonio Rudiger has been a regular thus far, and he’s looked solid. He’s yet to take his game to the next level since moving to Stamford Bridge, but you’d expect him to get better if he can hold down his spot in the team. Alongside him, Andreas Christensen hasn’t had much involvement yet, but you’d expect that to come with time. His passing style is perfectly suited to a Sarri system, whilst at just 22-years-old, he’s only going to get better.
In midfield, Jorginho has settled in perfectly, and he helps this team tick with simple passing and space-making manoeuvers. Alongside him, Kante – unleashed with a more offensive role – utilises his excellent pace to run box-to-box and make an impact. The third person in the midfield is up for debate, but it’s hard to see past Mateo Kovacic as the first choice. The on-loan Real Madrid man offers tremendous acceleration and dribbling and will give Chelsea an entirely new perspective going forward. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley also have a chance of making an impact.
The attack more or less picks itself, with Eden Hazard an undisputed starter. The battle between Willian and Pedro is more difficult, but the latter’s goalscoring record so far this season means that he gets the nod for the time being at least. Alvaro Morata is Chelsea’s first choice forward, and after a dry spell in front of goal, he’ll be hoping that he improves. He’s well suited to Sarri’s system in comparison to Olivier Giroud.
There is no telling just how far Chelsea will go this season. Sarri has so much quality to select from, and he could easily make several changes to this team and still come out firing.
Chelsea fans – thoughts?
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