Maurizio Sarri was unveiled as Chelsea head coach on Wednesday. Antonio Conte’s successor has plenty on his to-do list at Stamford Bridge.
Here, we look at some of those issues.
Like Conte, Sarri began on message. He was vague when asked about contact with the club prior to his appointment and refused to divulge any talks with owner Roman Abramovich. “I don’t want to start a work relationship with him by speaking about private things,” said Sarri, when asked whether Abramovich has assured him of his commitment despite the Russian billionaire’s dispute with UK authorities over his visa. Continued diplomacy will be necessary, behind the scenes and in public.
Bring back the fun
The 59-year-old former Napoli boss wants to enjoy himself and for the players and supporters to have fun too. At times last season under Conte, too few of the players seemed to be enjoying themselves. He also hopes Chelsea will play his brand of entertaining football. “I’m convinced if a team has fun the fans have fun too,” Sarri said. “This is very important. There are material objectives, to reach high-level objectives, but we must start by having fun.”
This is largely a club issue, given Chelsea managers, or head coaches, have decreasing influence on transfer strategy. And Sarri says he has no interest in transfers. The Italian also spoke of his desire to hold face-to-face talks with Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois over their futures, with their contracts winding down. Sarri, who wants them to train under him before making any decision, said: “A telephone call without looking them in the eyes would not give me any certainty. I would like to meet these players face to face, talk to them and understand what the best thing to do would be for everyone.”
Win, win again and win well
The Blues are serial winners. Anything less is a sackable offence. Even claiming two pieces of silverware could not spare Conte. But Sarri has not won a trophy in professional football. “It’s true I haven’t won anything,” he said. “Honestly I hope I will be able to fill in this gap with the club.” He says the only target set by the club is to be in contention in all competitions next spring, at the business end of the season. Chelsea finished fifth, 30 points behind champions Manchester City last season. Sarri added: “The first step for us is to fill in a gap which was quite clear last year, but which two years ago was in favour of Chelsea. I hope it was an occasional gap, not a structural one.”
Time is ticking
Sarri and Chelsea have three weeks until the summer transfer window for the Premier League closes, prior to the season starting. There is no time to waste. But with World Cup winners N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud on holiday, along with Hazard and Courtois, who finished third with Belgium, Sarri is without key members of his squad. “It will take some time to build a slightly different way of playing,” Sarri said. He was adamant he is unfazed by the prospect of the sack, saying: “The job means risks, but also a lot of satisfaction. What happened in Chelsea in the past does not concern me. I am not afraid, I don’t want to be afraid.”
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