Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri issues results warning as Blues enter new season

The Italian claims his side may struggle early on but backs them to flourish later in the campaign.

Maurizio Sarri expects a difficult start to life at Chelsea.

Antonio Conte won the 2016-17 Premier League title in his first season in charge, reviving Chelsea from a 10th-placed finish the previous campaign.

Conte won the 2018 FA Cup in his final game as head coach in May, before being sacked despite starting pre-season in charge, hampering Sarri’s preparation.

The 59-year-old former Napoli boss has had just four weeks since his appointment to prepare for Saturday’s Premier League opener at Huddersfield, and has been without many of his leading players due to the World Cup.

I expect in the first part of the season some problems... on the results Maurizio Sarri

“I hope that the second part of the season, for us, will be very good with a lot of points,” Sarri said.

“I expect in the first part of the season some problems.”

Asked what issues he expects, Sarri added: “On the results. Maybe the performances in the first part of the season will not be in line with the potential of the squad. Maybe, in the first part.”

bpanews_4f7f26df-668d-4341-86a3-ca147cb9955d_embedded237886095
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri expects problems initially (Mike Egerton/PA)

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not renowned for his patience.

But Sarri says the Chelsea hierarchy acknowledge it has hardly been an ideal start, with the head coach unhappy about a pre-season schedule which included a trip to Australia.

“They know it very well,” Sarri added.

The Blues boss has a reputation for an attractive, attacking style, known as ‘Sarri-ball’.

“I think you have to wait for a couple of months. You have to wait,” he added.

bpanews_4f7f26df-668d-4341-86a3-ca147cb9955d_embedded235220755
Alvaro Morata started well at Chelsea before struggling for goals (Martin Rickett/PA Images)

Chelsea struggled for goals last season under Conte, and Sarri appears to have identified the pace of the attack, or the lack of a change in pace, as the issue.

He added: “If we are able to play at another speed, maybe scoring will not be a problem for us.

“But at this moment, at this current speed, it may be a problem.”

bpanews_4f7f26df-668d-4341-86a3-ca147cb9955d_embedded237922308
Eden Hazard’s Chelsea contract has two years left to run (Adam Davy/PA)

‘Sarri-ball’ is a style which Eden Hazard and Willian would be expected to enjoy.

Sarri expects both Hazard and Willian to stay, despite rumoured interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively, and the transfer window remaining open in Europe.

Asked if the pair could leave before the end of the month, Sarri said: “I think it’s impossible. Here the market is closed, so we cannot change important players now. It’s impossible.”

bpanews_4f7f26df-668d-4341-86a3-ca147cb9955d_embedded237925158
Thibaut Courtois called for Eden Hazard to join him at Real Madrid after leaving Chelsea (Mike Egerton/PA Images)

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois left Chelsea for Real Madrid this week, urging his Belgium team-mate Hazard to join him in future.

“Hazard is with us,” Sarri said.

“It’s not a problem. I have spoken with him three, four times. He never said something about the market. I think he’s very happy to stay here.”

Hazard’s contract runs until June 2020 and he has been mulling over the offer of an extension for some time. Sarri believes Hazard will commit to the club.

Sarri added: “I think it will not be a problem, the new contract.”

bpanews_4f7f26df-668d-4341-86a3-ca147cb9955d_embedded237944229
Kepa Arrizabalaga joined Chelsea for a world record fee for a goalkeeper (John Stillwell/PA)

Sarri suggested fringe players will depart on loan – Michy Batshuayi (Valencia) and Kurt Zouma (Everton) did so on Friday – and expressed delight in the players Chelsea managed to recruit.

Mateo Kovacic moved from Real to Chelsea on a season-long loan and Kepa Arrizabalaga has succeeded Courtois as Chelsea’s number one, becoming the world’s most expensive goalkeeper in a £72.1million deal from Athletic Bilbao.

“I think now the squad is complete,” Sarri added.

Sarri did not confirm if Kepa will start at Huddersfield, so Willy Caballero could continue in goal. Cesar Azpilicueta will captain the side.

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph