Belfast Telegraph

New Chelsea boss Sarri set to spell out plans

The 59-year-old was appointed Blues boss on Saturday.

Maurizio Sarri is to be unveiled as Chelsea head coach on Wednesday, with a barrage of questions awaiting him.

The 59-year-old was appointed Blues boss on Saturday, succeeding compatriot Antonio Conte, who was sacked 24 hours earlier.

Conte was axed 55 days after winning the FA Cup in his final match and despite overseeing pre-season training earlier last week.

Conte also won the Premier League in his first season in charge, which began with many believing Chelsea were in crisis. It is not difficult to argue the situation is more challenging now.

Sarri finds himself coming into the most turbulent period at Chelsea since Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003.

But Sarri cannot concern himself about Abramovich’s long-term interest, following the Russian billionaire’s visa dispute with the UK authorities, or the indefinite postponement of plans to rebuild Stamford Bridge.

The former Napoli boss has enough on-field issues to deal with as Chelsea, fifth in the Premier League last season, attempt to narrow the gap to rivals in Manchester, London and Liverpool. The Blues finished 30 points adrift of champions Manchester City last term.

There are doubts over the futures of playmaker Eden Hazard, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, forward Willian, striker Alvaro Morata and midfielder N’Golo Kante, among others. Captain Gary Cahill’s future was also questioned on Tuesday.

Sarri may be seeking to use his powers of persuasion with Hazard and Courtois, in particular, to stick with Chelsea. But with their contracts winding down – Courtois’ expires next summer, Hazard’s in 2020 – Chelsea’s may be forced to cash in.

There will be questions about incoming players, too. Jorginho followed Sarri from Napoli, but further reinforcements are likely.

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain has been repeatedly linked with Chelsea, as has CSKA Moscow’s Aleksandr Golovin, after he starred for hosts Russia at the World Cup.

Sarri will be speaking ahead of Chelsea travelling to Western Australia for the July 23 friendly with Perth Glory.

In an interview with the Blues’ official app, The 5th Stand, on Monday, Sarri outlined his intention to play his high-intensity, attacking brand of football at Chelsea.

“With one or two adjustments we can try to play my football,” he said.

Conte also saw potential in Chelsea, despite their 10th-placed finish prior to his arrival in July 2016.

At his own unveiling two years ago, Conte spoke of Chelsea having “a small flame flickering that can eventually grow into a blazing inferno”.

Sarri sees possibilities, but with Chelsea playing catch up, City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool strengthening and Arsenal under new management, the challenge is greater now.

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