There’s a quiet wind of change blowing through Stamford Bridge. You’d be forgiven for missing it as it’s been less about the all too familiar playing personnel changes and more about a significant change of style.
At the heart of it is the new Head Coach, Maurizio Sarri, charged with implementing a new possession based, attacking style of football which Roman Abramovic has craved since he made an entry into English football over 15 years ago.
A succession of managers have followed, all with varying levels of success, but none has quite come close to style of football the owner wants to see. But in Sarri, it appears the club may finally have landed the one to deliver on this lofty ideal.
This shift has come at some expense. Chelsea have placed the quest for a different style of football above the quest for silverware. The club has opted against picking an established winner for a manager whose approach has earned him more acclaim than actual trophies. Sarri’s choice is a paradigm shift that could turn out brilliantly or backfire spectacularly.
As the new season kicks off, Chelsea fans can anticipate a dramatic shift from a cautious defensively oriented approach that relies on brisk counter-attacking movements to a more fluid, possession based approach that seeks to dominate play. This approach, or SarriBall as its adherents warmly refer to it, may not yield instant trophies. The new manager will require time to drill his squad in this new approach to the game. A new approach does require new skill sets.
PLAYER(S) TO WATCH:
Jorghino, who recently joined from Napoli and perfectly epitomises SarriBall, will be key. His ability to keep the ball moving with fluid and intelligent passes is critical.
Given the relatively austere times the club operates in these days, it’s safe to assume both the academy and the loan army will both be sources of players with these skill sets.
Sarri will offer academy graduate, Callum Hudson-Odoi, an opportunity to shine. The 17-year old has massively impressed in the three pre-season friendlies so far and is likely to feature in a lot of games. Great things are expected of the winger who combines pace, great technique and confidence that belies his age.
Marcin Bulka, the teenage goalkeeper, and Ethan Ampadu who plays in the centre back position will also get their chances this season as will loan returnee, Ruben Loftus-Cheek who did creditably well in the midfield with Crystal Palace last season and with the Three Lions in Russia.
Current team players like Hazard, Pedro and Luiz will benefit from the positive approach while Kante is expected to continue impressing with a solid midfield partner in Jorghino. Ross Barkley will get a chance to stake a claim to a place in the first team after full recovery from injuries that have restricted him since his January arrival.
Overall, the promise of more positive, attacking and dominant displays is something to look forward to as the team transitions very quickly from defence to attack. Actual trophy wins will be a most desirable bonus, but more realistic expectations will be a return to the top 4 and a good run in both domestic and European cup competitions.
City look a more settled side with a good chance of retaining the League title. One of either Liverpool (if the new players settle quickly) or United should provide good competition.
Nevertheless, the quiet changes will go on at Chelsea. Hopefully, it’s not too long before these changes start to produce the major trophies and in a style that is markedly different.
By Tunde Dosekun.
Mr Dosekun writes in from Lagos, Nigeria and has been a CFC fan for 20 years