When you think of Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri, it’s hard to look past the change in the style of play under the Italian. Last season, Chelsea’s style was characterised by defensive work and counter-attacking, but that’s had 180-degree flip this season.
Under Sarri, the Blues are far more concerned with fast, pass-heavy offensive movement, and they’re yet to sit back and defend this season – regardless of the opposition.
That, without a doubt, is a huge change at Stamford Bridge – but is it the biggest or, indeed, the most influential?
Certainly, it’s up there, but the change in personnel at Stamford Bridge is also playing a part – and the Chelsea midfield, you could argue, highlights the growth under Sarri at Chelsea more than anything else.
Simply by looking at the options available to Sarri, the picture is clear. It wasn’t unusual for the Blues to line-up with a trio of Danny Drinkwater, Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante last season. On paper, that’s not a terrible collection of players; but are they, together, really good enough for the highest level?
In truth, only Kante out of those players would get close to any of their rivals’ midfield, and that says it all.
This season, though, Sarri’s midfield of choice has included Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. With Kovacic handling the offensive flair, Jorginho handling the playmaking and Kante doing a bit of everything, that’s a midfield capable of competing with anyone in the world. Not to mention, all three of those players are up there with the best in Europe when it comes to their own craft.
In fact, Chelsea’s reserve options are arguably better than the best that Conte could offer last season. Between the likes of Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea have a midfield to compete with anyone in Europe sitting on their bench on any given week, and that’s simply remarkable.
Sarri, then, has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in the midfield, and more than anything else, that highlights the growth under the boss.