Changing Chelsea defensive tactics may prove difficult - Maurizio Sarri
Maurizio Sarri has revealed he is trying to "completely" change the way his Chelsea defenders think about football, adding that he is not sure if he is capable of adopting a different approach if his style does not work at Stamford Bridge.
Less than two months into his tenure as head coach, Sarri has completely overhauled the playing style Chelsea established under Antonio Conte, shifting away from his predecessor's 3-4-3 formation to a high-pressing 4-3-3 system with summer signing Jorginho setting the tone for fast, expansive passing from the base of midfield.
It is an approach that yielded six goals as Chelsea won both of their first two Premier League matches against Huddersfield and Arsenal, but the Gunners also exposed startling defensive vulnerabilities by scoring twice in what Sarri described as a "horrible" 15 minutes for his team.
Sarri warned that he generally experiences defensive difficulties when he first arrives at a new club, but is adamant that Chelsea's players are perfectly capable of putting his ideas into action with time.
"It's not so easy to change the mind," he said. "If you are used to defending by looking at the man, and I ask you to defend by looking only at the ball, I think if you are 18 it's maybe easier. If you are 28 and, for 10 years, you've played the other way, it's not so easy. So you have to change completely the mind.
"I think it's better [to defend looking at the ball]. I think, if you arrive to think in this way, then it's very easy. It depends only on you. You are not depending on the opponent. I think it's very easy and, if you defend by looking only at the ball, you can stay very high up the pitch. In the other way, you defend on the movements of the opponent."
Asked if experienced players find his approach to defending scary, Sarri replied: "For two or three months. But I think, in this case, with this team, there are very intelligent players."
Conte arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2016 and settled on a 4-3-3 formation after trialling 4-2-4 in preseason, but comprehensive defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal prompted him to turn to the 3-4-3 system that ultimately propelled the Blues to an unexpected Premier League title triumph.
Sarri is unconvinced that he could ever resort to such a radical Plan B.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe I have to do that [adapt my ideas], but I am better when I play my football, my way of football. I don't know if I'm a very good coach if I teach another [way of] football.
"If [Chelsea] called me 40 days ago, I think it's because they wanted to see my football here, I think. It's not easy, but I have to try."
Sarri has yet to win a major trophy in his 13-year coaching career, but Napoli garnered praise from across the football world for their thrilling style of play during his three seasons in charge, and Chelsea's new head coach remains committed to entertaining as well as winning.
"I want to enjoy, I want to have fun, press the ball," he said. "Then, if I enjoy the game, maybe the supporters enjoy the game. And I think that, if the team enjoy the game, they've have a lot of opportunities to win the match."