Or Sarrismo. Or whatever new fad word Chelsea supporters are using these days to describe this new found attacking football the club are playing. We have played 10 league games and haven’t lost any on the way to 24 points out of a possible 30. We have seen our beloved Chelsea Football Club score some fantastic goals and we are excited by what the future may bring. But, this is not the high flying, Guardiola praising, taking Serie A by storm Sarriball that we all heard so much about this summer.
I was excited when Maurizio Sarri took over at the club. I was frustrated like many supporters in years past when we used negative tactics in so many big matches. I was downright giddy when I saw the way we played against Liverpool in the league, even though we didn’t win. We played to win. Which to me was almost as important as winning. It showed that, even though Sarri might not think the players are 100% comfortable with the implementation of his style, we were not going to let the opposition dictate the game to us.
But, this is not the Sarriball that we all heard so much about this summer. The style of football we are currently playing is closer the Guardiola’s Barca’s sides than what Sarri did with Napoli the past 2 seasons. Sarri’s tactics at Napoli involved quick, decisive passes in between the lines to expose the defenses in Italy. He used the quickness and agility of Insigne, Callejon and Mertens to great effect in wreaking havoc on Serie A leading to a second place finish on 95 points while scoring 77 goals in 38 matches averaging over 2 goals per match.
There are similarities in the style Chelsea are currently playing and Sarri’s Napoli. Like the high pressing, triangular passing angles and, most importantly, Jorginho. The Brazilian-Italian Midfielder was at the heart of what Sarri’s Napoli was able to do in Serie A and it was a major coup when Chelsea were able to bring him to Stamford Bridge over their Premier League rivals Manchester City. Jorginho is constantly directing play while on the pitch. He doesn’t do so with flashy dribbling or flair. He does it with seemingly constant communication with his teammates and effective passes. Telling his teammates where the ball should be played or where the proper space to move into is on the pitch. His passing is instinctive and he is always looking to play the ball between the lines of the opponent, but he will play the simple pass if that is his option. Jorginho’s main role as the deep lying playmaker is to keep the play moving and he does so with ease. He does not hold the ball to slow down the tempo, he quickly cycles the ball throughout the pitch to keep the opposition moving. I have come up with a nickname for our number 5 and it’s “Mr. One-touch.” Keep it going, tell your friends.
In my opinion there are more similarities between the way Chelsea currently play and the Tiki-taka style of the 2000’s Barcelona sides than Sarri’s Napoli sides. Sarri said this week “I was helped by the Spanish players at Chelsea, those who already speak our football language.” Cesc Fabregas and Pedro Rodriguez were both part of Barca’s famed La Masia academy and were ingrained with the Tiki-taka short passing style preferred by the Catalonian giants. Chelsea currently play a possession based style that utilizes short passing triangles and movement with Jorginho dictating the play from his midfield position. Similar to how Barca utilized possession with Xavi and Iniesta dictating the play from the midfield.
In ten Premier League matches this season Chelsea have an average possession of 67.5%. They have only had less possession than their opponent once and have had more than 60% possession in 9 of their 10 matches. But, possession does not win you games if you can’t score goals. Pep Guardiola famously said about Tiki-taka “I loathe all that passing for the sake of it.” Barca was successful with their possession based style because they relied on individual quality to turn holding the ball for long periods of time into goals. They utilized the quality of Messi, Iniesta, David Villa, etc to exploit the possession and passing of Xavi. Chelsea are pretty much solely relying on the individual quality of Eden Hazard to translate their large possession disparity into goals and wins.
We have seen glimpses of what we can expect down the road with Sarri’s style. Pedro’s goal against Arsenal and Hazard’s goal against Liverpool in the league were straight out of the Sarri playbook. Jorginho making line-breaking passes to get through the opposition and attackers using their quickness to get in behind the defense. That is what I am looking forward to when Sarri is able to fully implement his system at Chelsea. Whether or not we have the players in the squad to be able to play like Sarri’s Napoli is yet to be seen. There may need to be a follow-up article.
By Pete Herman @pete_blues
Pete is a Chelsea Pitch Owner shareholder and a member of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust