These are the different banana skins Sarri needs to avoid stamping on like his predecessors.
Defensively there’s a mixture of Villas Boas’ high block 433 with *inconsistent* pressing from the front three. There’s also a spirit of Di Matteo’s 12/13 where nobody who watched the games believed a triumvirate of inexperienced number 10 could reasonably not have the team wide open on transition.
Attacking wise, some of the very dull attack versus defense games where Chelsea had the ball but didn’t really knew what to do with it are reminiscent of Villas Boas’ early games. I won’t go from comparing Jorginho’s situation to when Villas Boas moved Lampard on the bench to play Meireles instead (or benched Mikel to play Oriol Romeu) but there’s still a World Cup winning midfielder playing out of position at the minute.
And as for starting the same 11 every game until total exhaustion runs the team onto the ground, Luis Felipe Scolari’s Chelsea also played scintillating football early on but that fade away once winter came. And Di Matteo (albeit he probably knew he was going to get sacked at one point, so went for it) whose team won 7 out of 9 and was even deemed title challengers despite ending the season 25 points from top (and behind Newcastle United) the season before.
Benitez led that team to a 15pts distance from top, despite losing both the Club World Cup and the opportunity to start Mikel in the final – who was suspended for the next domestic game three days later at the antipode – guess from which area the losing goal came from.
And to an extent, there’s a feel of Ancelotti’s second season where the 433 was found out in terms of how the ball was played out (and Mikel being monitored back to goal just how Jorginho’s is about to figure out in the coming weeks), whilst Lee Cattermole and Sunderland rampaged to a 3-0 win at Chelsea.
Ancelotti adapted and signed Torres in January to play 442 and still finished second. Conte’s circuits were also scouted in the second season, and without a firing striker “exceeding expected goals” like the pantomime villain Diego Costa, it was hard to catch up on other top teams and he slipped out of top four (but still lead Chelsea’s first training session in pre-season).
There’s a couple of parallels that can be drawn between Ancelotti’s second season and Conte’s. Such as losing key players:
- Ballack, Deco, Carvalho… Matić in 2010
- John Terry, Diego Costa… Matić (again)
Signing an expensive quick Spanish striker feeling the burden of the cursed (at least since the turn of the millennium) #9 shirt in Fernando Torres and Álvaro Morata. The pair have seemingly been contesting 7 years apart on whom who’d miss the target from the closest to goal. Albeit Álvaro Morata sort of experienced a Benjamin Button’s debut being good at the start and worse the more it lingers on.
Both managers experienced a very difficult joyless second season and whilst the football was never this bad in retrospect (found out by opposing teams, but still coherent), it never came close to the heights reached in the first season.
What happened from the turn of the year onwards? Everyone was speaking about the next managerial hot property no-one heard of five years ago, who’d finally bring the spectacular football Chelsea’s oligarch has been craving for years.
Both Italian managers got the boot in a tasteless fashion, with Chelsea upping their game from sacking the manager in the tunnel to the uncharted territory of sacking him after he takes charge of the first training session in the new season. So much for Conte’s full staff’s training gear printed with everyone’s initials for one training session. Sparing no expense.