Deadline day chaos for Sarri

With the UK transfer window now firmly shut for Premier League teams, and on the eve of the new season, Chelsea fans will have mixed emotions over what their team can achieve come next May.

The news that dominated the summer was the potential departures of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and attacker Eden Hazard. In the end, only one left, that being the Belgium national team goalkeeper Courtois to Real Madrid in a deal worth £31 million.

That seems a very attractive price for the buyers and a case of misery for the sellers, but with Courtois running into his final year of contract with the Blues, Chelsea had to accept defeat and at least get something for his inevitable departure.

With the commotion of Courtois going AWOL as he did not want to return to Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham, the Blues knew they had to recruit a replacement goalkeeper as soon as possible in order to avoid a complete meltdown. In the end, they opted for Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa Arrizabalaga, a player who has received one cap for Spain and cost them £71 million due to the selling club’s insistence of not wanting to negotiate and therefore having to activate the player’s release clause.

There is no doubt that the 23-year-old goalkeeper is a talent and one very much for the future, but Chelsea now need him to perform to a world-class standard – just as Courtois has done over the past few years – straight away. The Spaniard will have to adapt to English football and the physicality incredibly quickly in order to survive in the Premier League – just as David de Gea found out.

In exchange of selling Courtois to Real Madrid, Los Blancos decided to also allow Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovačić to leave on-loan for the season. What might have seemed a great signing at the time, news of Chelsea not having the ability to purchase him with a buy option has come to the fore, which has certainly dampened spirits. Some Blues fans would rather have seen Ruben Loftus-Cheek given a proper chance in the team, instead of developing one of Madrid’s stars-in-waiting.


Chelsea could have an awesome midfield 

However, Maurizio Sarri will have arguably one of the most balanced midfields in the division. With Jorginho sitting at the base, N’Golo Kanté acting as a ball-winning midfielder and Kovačić the playmaker, Chelsea will feel confident that they can cause disruption and damage when going up against anyone in the Premier League.

With the arrival of Sarri from Napoli, the Blues now have a manager who emphasises attacking ingenuity. Under Antonio Conte, there were too many times where, especially in the second season, the Italian would opt for a more defensive approach and fail to make use of his sensational forwards such as the Brazilian Willian.

As seen last season, Sarri deploys a 4-3-3 formation and constantly demands the team to push forward and create chances. Where the West London club are likely to threaten teams the most is their lightning quick transition from defence into attack – their counterattacking prowess will be too much for some to handle.


Do the Blues have enough firepower?

A problem that Chelsea encountered in Conte’s second season in charge was their lack of efficiency in front of goal. Having scored the least amount of goals out of the top six teams in the Premier League, Sarri will look to change their output from the off and will make sure that they are taking more shots outside of the area as well as creating more chances.

With Álvaro Morata severely lacking in confidence, Sarri attempted to persuade Gonzalo Higuaín from Juventus to join his ranks in London, but the Argentine opted to sign on at AC Milan for the upcoming season instead. Without a reliable goalscorer in the squad, the former Napoli manager could turn to Hazard.

When striker Arkadiusz Milik ruptured his ACL in late 2016, Sarri decided to turn out-of-favour winger Dries Mertens into a centre forward. In a three-man frontline that consisted of Lorenzo Insigne, Mertens and José Callejon, Napoli had the fluidity and flexibility in attack that saw the Belgian thrive as the number nine. Ever since making that change, Mertens has played through the middle for Napoli and returned 34 goals and 15 assists by the end of the 2016/17 season.

Sarri will most likely give Morata the opportunity to impress him and make a stake for his position in the team, but should the Spaniard fail and not take his chance, Chelsea fans should not be surprised to see Hazard take up the goalscoring duties and be played as the centre forward in a more open forward line.

The Italian manager is likely to bring great enthusiasm and entertainment to Stamford Bridge this season, as well as tightening their defence when the players adapt to his brand of football. Not everything is likely to click right away, but Blues fans will be hoping – and expecting – that they can reclaim their right to play in the Champions League with either a top four finish or Europa League success.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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