EPL Top Six Breakdown - Chelsea


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Part five out of six, we’re (thankfully) almost there! Again, we’ll be looking at the same elements that we have been in the past four articles: overall play style, manager evaluation, key player, and predictions.

Overall Play Style

Chelsea have endured/enjoyed some very rollercoaster last few seasons. Over the last four or so seasons, they’ve gone from winning Premier League titles, to finishing out of Champions League spots, back to winning the PL, and back again out of Europe’s most elite club competition. It’s been a peculiar run of seasons for the Blues, but it’s time we took them very seriously once again.

The appointment of Maurizio Sarri has breathed new life into a previously stale Chelsea squad badly in need of up lifting. He has implemented a completely new style of play from his predecessor, Antonio Conte.

“Sarriball,” as it’s been dubbed by commentators in Italy and England, consists of a heavy-possession team that defends and attacks while in possession. What this means is that Chelsea will attempt to generate all of their offence with intricate passing and holding possession, hoping to eventually find the killer pass that breaks down opposition defence. In the same vain, defending with the ball means that once they lose possession, they will seek the ball back immediately and keep hold of it, forcing their opponent out of their half/defensive third.

This is a very similar style to the tiki-taka that current Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola, implemented at Barcelona a decade ago, to huge success. The slight difference here is that Sarriball is quicker and looks to find slicing passes through defences rather than lulling the opposition into a false sense of security.

With Jorginho pulling the strings from the base of midfield, Chelsea have become very exciting to watch for the first time since Carlo Ancelotti’s reign. For neutral fans everywhere, hopefully this continues.

Manager Evaluation – Maurizio Sarri

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The aforementioned Maurizio Sarri can very well be considered a footballing journeyman over the course of his career. He never played professionally and was actually working as a banker when he decided to put his football knowledge to good use and go into management. He worked his way up from the lower Italian leagues, managing a lot of minnow Italian clubs, until he got his big break at Napoli. He had his share of success with the little donkeys, and then moved on to the blue side of London with Chelsea.

Sarri is a late bloomer and had to prove himself in the lower leagues, so his trophy cabinet and success relevant to other current managers in the “top six” is a bit different. What is blatantly obvious is how effective his style of play is (and very pleasing on the eye).

Sarri has a decent squad at Chelsea, only needing a few more signings to really stamp his identity on this club. Once he is able to plug the holes that have remained post-Conte, we’ll see him really get to work with the Blues.

Key Player

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Eden Hazard:

There are a few key players that we can look at in this Chelsea team. They have a quite a few difference makers – it just depends on whether you’re looking at this squad with a more offensive or defensive lens. Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, and Antonio Rudiger are all players that we could talk about, but it will have to be the Belgian in my opinion.

Eden Hazard has teetered on that “world class” ledge for a number of years now, but his inconsistencies (like Chelsea’s) have robbed him of getting the attention he deserves.

A highly skilled and quick attacker, Hazard has (at times) taken games over completely on his own this season, and has been directly involved in more goals in the league this season than in every previous season with Chelsea (bar one, so far).

When Hazard is firing, so will Chelsea.

Prediction:

League Finish: 3rd

Europa League Finish: Finalists