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Sarri should look to change his tactics and get Chelsea back on track

Chelsea enjoyed a wonderful start to the season under their new manager Maurizio Sarri, with the Blues stringing together an unbeaten run of 12 games in the Premier League.

Sarri’s possession-based patient build-up philosophy seemed to be working wonders for Chelsea as the Blues managed to starve the opposition of the ball, stamping their authority with their territorial domination. Three and a half months since the start of the season, things were looking really good for Chelsea and Sarri but things have taken a dramatic turnaround in the last month and a half.

It all started with the game at Wembley against Spurs. Prior to that game, the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool had failed to halt Chelsea’s juggernaut but Mauricio Pochettino, as great a tactician as he is, had other ideas. The Argentine tactician identified Jorginho as the main focal point of Chelsea’s ‘Sarri Ball’ style of play and deployed Dele Alli in a No.10 role to nullify the impact of the Italian.

The rest is history. For the first time in the season, Chelsea looked lost and failed to assert their authority on the game as Spurs ran riot at Wembley to put an end to the Blues’ unbeaten run with a 3-1 victory. Pochettino’s masterstroke was an eye-opener for other teams, an opportunity for them to analyse and plan their approach while facing the Blues.

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The fans would have expected to see a change in tactics, a possible plan ‘B’, after Sarri’s ploy of using Jorginho as the main pivot of his midfield three was exposed. However, as stubborn as he is, Sarri has refused to adopt a different approach.

Since the start of December, Chelsea have been beaten by Wolves, Leicester and Arsenal in the Premier League. The Blues were in the race for the title in the opening stages of the season but a top-four finish would be an ideal result given how things have shaped up.

And it was once again the same old story against Arsenal as the Gunners completely outplayed the Blues to pee the gap to three points for the final Champions League playoff spot. Unai Emery followed Pochettino’s footsteps and used a midfield diamond with Aaron Ramsey in a No.10 role to take Jorgingo out of the game.

The result was crystal clear. Chelsea looked totally clueless and Jorginho, who is supposed to be the main distributor in Sarri’s system, was starved of the ball by Arsenal’s aggressive approach. The Italian’s lack of pace, inability to defend against quality opposition and poor work rate was once again exposed as Arsenal rendered him completely useless with their high-pressing game.

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As a matter of fact, Jorginho has registered over 2000 passes in the Premier League this season without a single assist to his name. That virtually sums up his impact. Jorginho is someone who excels with his passing but a one-dimensional player like him was bound to be exposed sooner or later in a competition as dynamic as the Premier League.

Well, there is still plenty of time left in the season for Chelsea to repair the damage. Looking at things from a tactical perspective, there are currently two players who are playing out of position in the line-up. Failure of Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud to deliver the goods has forced Sarri to use Eden Hazard in a false-nine role while N’Golo Kante has found himself on the right of the midfield three to accommodate Jorginho.

Chelsea will definitely have half their problems solved if Gonzalo Higuain arrives before the deadline. However, Sarri needs to adopt a more free-flowing and attacking style of play to get the best out of the current bunch of players. Irrespective of whether Higuain arrives, the manager should reinstate Hazard in a wide role as he is more dangerous when playing out from the flanks.

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Sarri should even consider using Danny Drinkwater or Ethan Ampadu in a holding role in the middle of the park to reduce the over-reliance on Jorginho. Both of them have a good range of passing and they can help Chelsea by moving the ball quicker and raising the tempo of the game.

To be honest, Chelsea have looked really slow and inactive in the middle of the park and Sarri should find a solution to that.

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Agreed, it won’t be easy for Sarri to bench Jorginho as he holds the key to the execution of his plans. With the pressure mounting on the manager following a series of lacklustre results, it will be interesting to see how he approaches the upcoming fixtures.


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