Italian manager Maurizio Sarri isn’t one to use the term ‘Sarriball’, but he still thinks that a resurgent Chelsea are falling short of playing the type of football he wants as he aims to bring out more attacking flair from his team. The Blues boss is still dissatisfied despite seeing his side produce an 8-0 aggregate win ahead of another tough away trip to Everton. Eden Hazard’s late equaliser against Wolves last weekend was followed up by a 5-0 win at Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League on Thursday, as Chelsea continued their unbeaten run in normal time since their humiliating 6-0 defeat to Manchester City in February.
The Blues boss looked to be on the brink of losing his job, but positive defensive work has seen the club re-establish themselves as serious contenders to achieve Champions League football for next season. Sarri is hopeful that his message is getting across to his players, with consistency starting to improve in recent weeks.
“We played very well [against Dynamo], especially because we started very well. First of all, in terms of solidity, I think. We can concede fewer than before. We are consistent with the results,” the Italian said, before adding that his team’s attack still isn’t where he’d like it to be. “Not at the moment with the performances, especially in the offensive phase,” Sarri said. “Sometimes we’ve played with very good quality in the offensive phase, and sometimes not. But at this moment, for us, the most important thing is to be solid.
“I changed [Chelsea’s system] in the last match because the opponent didn’t come to attack. And so, in the last 20 minutes, we could make the change. But I think that the system is not so important. What is important is our way of football. We don’t play in the same way with another system. “Before changing, it’s better to consolidate the first system, to consolidate our way of football. Then we can change, also, in matches. But first of all, I want to see my football. We started to defend in a very good way in the last month, I think.
“Now we need to start in the offensive phase to play every match with the same ideas. At the moment, we are not able to do this because, sometimes, we are without movement without the ball. “Sometimes we didn’t put the ball into the box very well or attack the spaces behind the opponents’ back-line very well. So we need to have consistency on this.”
Sarri was critical of his front men and changed his formation for the first time all season, as Wolves held out for a clean sheet until the final moments despite their limited efforts to attack. Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain and Pedro were all criticised after the match, as Sarri aims to ensure that his side follows his style of football. Everton are up next on Sunday, and once again Ruben Loftus-Cheek will battle for his place with Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley. In Ukraine, Sarri said Loftus-Cheek will become one of Europe’s best midfielders, and he has now added that he admires the way that the England star has improved as a footballer, even in spite of a chronic back injury.
“Yes, he’s improving,” Sarri continued. “And the most important thing, in my opinion, is he is improving in a very difficult season. He had problems two or three times in the same season. Now, fortunately, he’s able to train with continuity and consistency, so he’s improved a lot in the last month. “He played a very important match today, and I am really very happy because he was able to play for 90 minutes, and that’s very important for him.”
With Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek having played 90 minutes after a 2,600-mile round trip, Sarri may be considering starting Barkley against his former club on Sunday. Barkley could be targeted for abuse as he returns to play at his boyhood club again, but Sarri is only worried about getting one over on tough opposition that managed to draw at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
“I don’t know. Usually, I don’t want to think about this kind of situation, if a player is an ex of another team or not,” Sarri said. “I don’t like that. Today he was on the bench because he was one yellow card from a ban, so we thought it was better not to put him in the starting XI. “For the next match, we will need to evaluate the situation. It was the first match for Loftus-Cheek to play 90 minutes, so we don’t know the reaction yet. So we need to evaluate everything on Saturday, and then we will decide ahead of playing a very important and difficult match for us.
“In my opinion, Everton, outside the top six, are the best team in the Premier League in terms of technical quality. So we have to play a very important match, and a very difficult game.”