After Manchester City’s 6-0 thrashing of Chelsea on Sunday evening, the two teams seem worlds apart. For Maurizio Sarri to replicate the success of Guardiola’s transformation at City, Roman Abramovich must take an approach the Champions’ boardroom did in 2017.
Flashback to January 15, 2017 and Everton have just beaten City 4-0, leaving them 10 points from first place. In his post-match press conference Guardiola is asked if he thinks his style of football will ever work in the Premier League. His answer to this, and other questions like it, always backed his philosophy to prevail.
One season later and City smash numerous records, winning the Premier League in a style no other team has ever done. So what’s the difference? Time and money. This is what Chelsea must afford Sarri if he’s going to be successful at the club.
One of those components, spending money, is something Chelsea have been quite prolific at over the last 20 years, and Abramovich will have to dig deep in the summer to find players that are technically gifted and intelligent enough to buy into ‘Sarriball’. Guardiola didn’t have the players good enough to play in his system during his first season, and director of football Txiki Begiristain saw it the same way and didn’t question Pep’s philosophy.
He’d worked with Guardiola at Barcelona and knew the system would be a success with the right players. So City underwent a squad overhaul that included releasing all four full-backs and buying three more for a combined sum of over £100m. Chelsea must replicate this backing and give Sarri the tools to work with.
Giving a manager time is something Chelsea certainly aren’t known for. 12 managerial changes, both temporary and so-called permanent, in 11 years is quite a record and the pressure is now mounting on Sarri to get results before he too faces the axe. Chelsea must once again follow in the City hierarchy’s footsteps and reassure their manager that he has their full backing.
It’s only natural if a manager feels he doesn’t have the time to implement his complex changes he will make shortcuts and mistakes when trying to do so. Buying better players is key but it’s also important to look at how Guardiola improved players already at City. Many never thought Sergio Aguero would adopt the work rate required to play under him, but now he works tirelessly to win the ball all over the pitch. The Chelsea players need time to adapt to the system and Sarri needs time to implement it.
So that’s what it’s going to take, time and money. It seems easier said than done, but Manchester City made it look pretty easy last season – can Chelsea do the same?